Journalist Detained for Two Months
International PEN protests the two-month detention of Jesús Lemus Barajas, journalist and director of the daily newspaper El Tiempo, based in La Piedad, Michoacán state, on charges of drug trafficking. PEN is concerned that he may be held for legitimate journalistic activities, and that the charges may be a means of ending his newspaper’s criticism of the local authorities. PEN is also alarmed by reports that he has been ill-treated and calls on the Mexican authorities to either substantiate the charges against him or to release him immediately and unconditionally.
Lemus Barajas was reportedly investigating drug trafficking on May 7, 2008, when he was arrested along with two of his sources in Cuerámaro, in the neighboring state of Guanajuato, and accused of involvement in trade for "The Family," an offshoot of the powerful Gulf cartel. He was detained incommunicado for 48 hours by Guanajuato state ministerial police, who reportedly interrogated and beat him and confiscated his personal belongings, including his car and camera, even though he explained he was a journalist on assignment.
On May 9, Lemus Barajas and the two other men were transferred to Puentecilla prison in Guanajuato, where the federal public ministry took over the case. Lemus Barajas’ preventive custody was confirmed on May 15. On May 27, he was transferred to a high-security federal prison in Puente Grande, in the neighboring state of Jalisco. According to the authorities, the move was necessary because Lemus Barajas is considered a "dangerous suspect." However, El Tiempo editor Magdalena Pérez Sánchez has claimed that this was an attempt to obstruct his defense.
Lemus Barajas has been accused of "instigating organized crime," trying to bribe local authorities in order to carry out drug deals, and posing as a journalist in order to approach officials and "ensure impunity for drug-dealing operations" for "The Family." The newspaper director has reportedly denied the accusations. To date, no concrete evidence has been presented against him.
This is not the first time Lemus Barajas and El Tiempo have been subject to harassment. In March, Lemus Barajas exposed the harassment of the media by the mayor of La Piedad, which led to the detention of two El Tiempo reporters, José Antonio Chavolla Barragán and Alicia López Barajas, on charges of "incitement to rebellion." He had also been critical of the unfair allocation of official advertising in the municipality and of police intimidation of El Tiempo news vendors.
There has been high-level concern about this case in Mexico: On May 28, it was reported that the Chamber of Deputies’ special commission on monitoring attacks on journalists would visit Lemus Barajas in prison and condemn his imprisonment. The National Human Rights Commission has opened an investigation into the detention. On June 25, the Permanent Commission of Congress requested that the Attorney General's Office provide a written report on Lemus Barajas’ case within 30 days.
Write A Letter
- Expressing concern about the two-month imprisonment of El Tiempo director Jesús Lemus Barajas on drug-trafficking charges, and about reports that Lemus Barajas was held incommunicado and ill-treated during the first 48 hours of his detention;
- Calling on the authorities to either substantiate the charges against Lemus Barajas or release him immediately and unconditionally.
Send Your Letter To
Lic. Felipe De Jesús Calderón Hinojosa
Presidente de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos
Residencia Oficial de los Pinos Casa Miguel Alemán
Col. San Miguel Chapultepec, C.P. 11850
Fax: (+ 52 55) 5093 4901/ 5277 2376
E-mail: [email protected]
Salutation: Señor Presidente/ Dear Mr. President
Lic. Eduardo Medina-Mora Icaza
Procurador General de la República
Av. Paseo de Reforma No. 211-213, Piso 16
Col. Cuauhtémoc, Defegacion Cuauhtémoc
Teléfono + 52 55 5346 0108
Fax: + 52 55 53 46 0908
E-mail: [email protected]
Salutation: Señor Procurador General/Dear Attorney General
Special Federal Prosecutor on Crimes Against Journalists
Lic. Octavio Alberto Orellana Wiarco
Fiscal Especial para la Atención de Delitos Cometidos contra Periodistas
Procuradoría General de la República
Av. Paseo de la Reforma #211-213
Col. Cuauhtémoc, Del. Cuauhtémoc, C.P. 06500
México D.F., MEXICO
Fax: +52 55 53 46 09 08
Salutation: Dear Sir/Señor Fiscal Especial
If possible, please also send copies of your appeals to the Mexican embassy in your country.
Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN if sending appeals after August 7, 2008: ftw [at] pen.org