8/9/16 — On July 15th, renowned Mexican journalist and social activist, Sergio Aguayo, was sued by former Governor of Coahuila and former President of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI), Humberto Moreira Valdés, for alleged moral damage to his reputation from an opinion piece published by Aguayo in January 2016. The article, which called Moreira corrupt and an “example of impunity,” was published shortly after Moreira was arrested in Spain for alleged ties to organized crime and money laundering. Moreira was released a week later by Spanish authorities due to lack of evidence.
Sergio Aguayo is a well-known Mexican journalist and human rights activist who grew up in Guadalajara. He has taught at various universities in Mexico, Europe, and the United States, including ties to the University of California-San Diego and Harvard University. He appears regularly on television programs to discuss politics and publishes articles weekly for several newspapers in Mexico including Reforma. He is well known for his academic work on Mexican politics and law enforcement, including his books La transición en México and La Charola.
The former Governor submitted a petition on June 28, 2016 demanding $555,000 (USD) and a public apology from Aguayo for publishing the opinion piece. The petition was admitted by the 15th Civil Court of Mexico City (Juzgado 15 de lo Civil del Tribunal Superior de Justicia del Distrito Federal (TSJDF)) on June 30, 2016. Aguayo hypothesized on his personal website that Moreira has come after him because he is researching the 2011 Allende massacre that occurred in Coahuila. Moreira was Governor of the State of Coahuila from December 1, 2005 – January 4, 2011. The massacre led to the disappearance of more than 300 people as a result of Los Zetas organized crime activity in the area. On Sergio Aguayo’s website, he also questions why the former Governor brought charges against him nearly six months after the article’s original publication and why Moreira targeted him when several other journalists have made similar assertions about Moreira’s character. Aguayo claims Moreira is using the lawsuit as an intimidation tactic.
Political pressure and violence targeting journalists in Mexico has attracted significant attention in recent years. High profile journalists like Carmen Aristegui have been fired due to critical investigations of the Mexican government. Also, Mexico is frequently cited as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. More than 11 journalists have been murdered since 2014 and many others are regularly intimidated, censored, and directly attacked. The lawsuit against Aguayo has been denounced by numerous academics and several human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and the Freedom House, claiming that it is unacceptable to use intimidation tactics to hinder freedom of speech by journalists.
The Mexican online forum El Palenque has started a petition for those interested in supporting Sergio Aguayo, and a legal defense fund has been created by Justice in Mexico in Aguayo’s name for those who wish to help defray the cost of legal fees incurred by the lawsuit.