Judicial Roulette: The current Mexican judicial system from a journalist’s perspective

Originally published in Reforma, February 15, 2017 as “Ruleta Judicial”.

By Sergio Aguayo
Twitter: @sergioaguayo

Dr. Sergio Aguayo, professor at the Colegio de México and journalist, currently facing a very grave threat to his freedom of expression and academic research under the Mexican judicial system.

Dr. Sergio Aguayo, professor at the Colegio de México and journalist, currently facing a very grave threat to his freedom of expression and academic research under the Mexican judicial system.

It is difficult to achieve justice in Mexico. The judicial system is designed to protect the powerful and punish the critics.

I confirmed this Mexican truism in the course of the first six months of litigation with Humberto Moreira, the former president of the ruling party (PRI or Party of the Institutionalized Revolution). Eight months ago Moreira sued me for 10 million pesos (about US$500,000 thousand dollars), in compensation for the harm I had caused to his “feelings, emotions, beliefs, decency [and] reputation” in a column I wrote on January 20, 2016, while Moreira was in jail in Spain because, in the view of the National Court of that country, he had committed the “crimes of money laundering, membership of a criminal organization, […] misappropriation of public funds, and bribery.” After my column was published he was exonerated.

Moreira has done well in his lawsuits, and ended 2016 emboldened. In December he declared to a Coahuila website that “they throw punches, I’ll throw lawsuits.” He is confident about emerging victorious from his litigation, and in a show of bravado to another website avowed that “we’re going to have to build three or four more Ceresos [jails] to find room for all the loudmouths.”

Understandable posturing. He has the means to pay his lawyers and appears to be favored by the Mexican president. José María Irujo wrote in El País that when he was jailed in Madrid the administration of Enrique Peña Nieto “placed at his disposal the entire diplomatic and legal machinery of its embassy in Spain in order to […] establish his legal situation, […] support his family, and get him out of jail.” Last week I experienced the opposite: the embassy of Mexico in Spain refused me the assistance I requested to obtain an urgent power demanded by a federal judge who is examining an aspect of the lawsuit.

A Mexico City judge, Alejandro Rivera Rodríguez, has also protected him. At the beginning of the lawsuit—in September 2016—he ordered the National Banking and Securities Commission to hand over my bank statements to Moreira; unnecessary because I have not been convicted. My lawyers lodged an appeal; the judge accepted it, but imposed a guarantee of about US$10,000, covered with an emergency loan from El Colegio de México (I am a professor there). Last week, the judge ordered that this money be handed to Moreira’s lawyer, who is not even a party to the litigation.

The judge also authorized a psychological evaluation, with questions prepared by Moreira that condemn me in advance. Observe the wording: “The expert must determine whether, as a result of the discrediting, insults, mockery and false accusations of corruption, theft and links with organized crime attributed by […] Sergio Aguayo Quezada [to] Humberto Moreira Valdés his image and credibility as a public figure has been insulted.” We have already requested the judge to be changed from the   Council of the Judiciary.

I have consulted colleagues who have been sued for moral damages and the pattern is similar. For Lydia Cacho the “judicial system is the executive arm of the personal revenge of politicians”; for Miguel Badillo: “Mexican justice is corrupt”; La Vanguardia de Coahuila has been through a “terrible” experience; and Javier Quijano Baz, lawyer of Carmen Aristegui, considers that a large number of Mexican judges are “ignorant” or “corrupt.”

Michel Forst, United Nations rapporteur on the situation of journalists and human rights defenders, agrees with these statements. In a report dated January 24, 2017, he states that in Mexico there is a “deliberate misuse of law” and that “filing unfounded complaints” against journalists and human rights activists is a form of intimidation.

The troubling experiences of recent months have been balanced by the solidarity, affection and support of countless readers and organizations such as Article 19— my representative—and the Mechanism to Protect Human Rights Defenders and Journalists. My lawyers—Héctor and Sergio Beristaín—believe that we will win because there are honest judges. Lydia Cacho always hoped to “find those few ethical and responsible judges” and Rosa Esther Beltrán, a columnist for La Vanguardia de Coahuila who has also been sued, encountered a decent judge.

I hope to emerge safely from this encounter with the roulette of an expensive, slow and unpredictable legal system. For the moment, the only certainties are that the government of Enrique Peña Nieto and a judge in the capital city favor and protect Humberto Moreira, former governor and former president of the PRI.

With the support of: Maura Roldán Álvarez.

***As part of Justice in Mexico’s ongoing support for journalists committed to human rights, transparency, and justice, Justice in Mexico has created a GoFundMe donation page to contribute to Sergio Aguayo’s legal defense fund. For those who wish to support and protect freedom of expression in Mexico, please consider donating to Sergio Aguayo’s legal defense fund. Details can be found at: https://www.gofundme.com/SergioAguayo

Four journalists killed in Mexico during first third of 2016

Journalist killed in Mexico

Journalist Francisco Pacheco Beltrán was murdered April 25, 2016. Photo: Diario de México.

05/07/16 (written by kheinle) – Journalists continue to face grave danger in Mexico, as evidenced by the recent homicide of journalist Francisco Pacheco Beltrán (55) in Guerrero. HIs death marks at least the fourth journalist killed in Mexico in 2016, putting the country on pace to more than double the number of journalists killed in 2015, according to data from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Pacheco was murdered by assailants in the early morning outside his home in Taxco, Guerrero on Monday, April 25 with two shots to the back of the head.

Violence Against Journalists

Pacheco played a number of roles in media, working as a reporter for Sol de Acapulco, editor for Foro de Taxco, and contributor to Capial Máxima, while covering several different areas, namely tourism and social media. According to CPJ, he also had a personal website that he used to report on regional crime and violence, and some said to also criticize local authorities. Reports could not confirm, however, if Pacheco’s murder was tied to his work as a journalist and, if so, to his alleged criticism of local authorities. Pacheco’s family said he did not feel threatened or in danger, but his work did cover Taxco, which is nearby to Iguala, Guerrero, both locations that have been hot spots in Mexico since the 2014 disappearance and presumed murder of 43 students from Ayotzinapa.

Journalists map 2000-2015, Justice in Mexico

Source: Justice in Mexico.

National and international voices immediately condemned Pacheco’s murder and called on authorities to investigate and hold accountable those responsible. “The endless cycle of violence against Mexican journalists is devastating the press,” wrote CPJ’s Carlos Lauría. “Federal authorities must thoroughly investigate the execution-style murder of [Pacheco] and exhaust all possible motives, including links to his work as a journalist.” The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, echoed Lauría, saying, “I condemn the murder… I call on the authorities to investigate this killing, which undermines the media’s ability to do their work and limits people’s access to information.” Mexico’s Executive Commission with Attention to Victims (Comisión Ejecutiva de Atención a Víctimas, CEAV) and the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Freedom of Expression (Fiscalía Especial para la Atención de Delitos cometidos contra la Libertad de Expresión, FEADLE), which operates under the Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR), have since launched an investigation into Pacheco’s death, beginning to interview the victim’s family in early May.

Pacheco’s death reflects Mexico’s continued status as one of the most dangerous countries for journalists. Mexico was the sixth deadliest country in the world in 2015 for journalists, with four media workers murdered in the year out of 49 worldwide, according to CPJ. Only France (8 journalists), Brazil (6), South Sudan (5) Bangladesh (5), and Iraq (5) had more. Of the four journalists killed in Mexico in 2016, according to CPJ only one, Marco Hernández Bautista (January 21 in Oaxaca), was killed with a confirmed motive. The murders of the other two, Anabel Flores Salazar (February 8 or 9 in Veracruz) and Moisés Dagdug Lutzow (February 20 in Tabasco), were unconfirmed. Pacheco’s case is still being investigated.

Justice in Mexico’s recently released annual report, “Drug Violence in Mexico: Data and Analysis Through 2015,” further explores the numbers behind the dangers for journalists in Mexico. Using its Memoria dataset, which is less conservative than CPJ’s because it takes into account cases of both media workers and journalists who may have been victims of intentional homicide for a variety of motives not limited to their reporting, Justice in Mexico has identified at least 132 journalists and media-support workers murdered in Mexico from 2000 to 2015. The vast majority of these deaths (123) occurred in or after 2006. In 2015, Justice in Mexico entered 15 media workers into the Memoria dataset, the same number recorded in 2014.

 

Sources:

“Journalist Anabel Flores Salazar death in Veracruz highlights danger members of the media face in Mexico.” Justice in Mexico. February 17, 2016.

“Mexican reporter shot to death in Guerrero state.” Committee to Protect Journalists. April 25, 2016.

Press Release. “Director-General urges investigation into murder of journalist Francisco Pacheco Beltrán in Mexico.” UNESCO. April 27, 2016.

“Drug Violence in Mexico: Data and Analysis Through 2015.” Justice in Mexico. April 29, 2016.

“PGR atrae investigación del asesinato del periodista Francisco Pacheco.” Noticieros Televisa. May 4, 2016.

“10 Journalists Killed in 2016/Motive Confirmed.” Committee to Protect Journalists. Last accessed May 7, 2016.

“36 Journalists Killed in Mexico since 1992/Motive Confirmed.” Committee to Protect Journalists. Last accessed May 7, 2016.

“Memoria.” Justice in Mexico. Last accessed May 7, 2016.