Marucho Bravo Pagola (@maruchibravo) and Gilberto Martínez Vera (@gillus_22) are two Mexican citizens arrested under charges of “terrorism and sabotage” in the State of Veracruz in México, after being held responsible of spreading rumours of a narco related attack trough Twitter and Facebook.
In Veracruz, active Twitter user Gilberto Martinez Vera (@gilius_22) tweeted last Thursday about a supposed attack at a primary school in the municipality of Boca del Rio, next to the city of Veracruz. Martinez Vera's original tweet on the attack said: “They took 5 kids, armed group, total psychosis in the zone.” He cited a sister-in-law but later said he had misidentified the school, and then mentioned another, all of which added to the confusion.
Maria de Jesus Bravo Pagola (@MARUCHIBRAVO) reportedly made similar statements on her Facebook account, leading to reports of panicked parents rushing to the school mentioned in their messages. Her Twitter shows inactivity since Aug. 22.
The attack account could not be confirmed by authorities. The following day, Martinez, a teacher, and Bravo, a journalist and former state bureaucrat, were arrested in their homes.
We have located the origin of today’s disinformation, I wanto to inform that this will hace legal consequences. Art.311 (terrorism) Ya tenemos ubicado el origen de toda la desinformación de hoy, quiero informar q esto tendrá consecuencias legales Art. 311 (terrorismo)
Despite the affirmation of the government of Veracruz that the detained created and spread the rumours, many people inform that they received calls directly from the schools to alert parents of the alleged attacks. (Video in spanish).
Amnesty International in Mexico expressed their concern over the arrest and indictment of these two Mexican citizens and calls for:
conduct immediate and impartial investigations into allegations of abuse and coercion and the denial of access to lawyers of their choice during their detention and trial by the judicial police and authorities.
Asks to be respected the right to a fair trial and freedom of expression and calls for a complete review of the conduct of state authorities in the arrest and indictment of Maria de Jesus Martinez and Gilberto Bravo Vera.
La Jornada Veracruz [ES] reports that the Human Rights Commission of Veracruz will not defend the accused as the law set limits for them.
However Revista Proceso [ES] published an article where the lawyers of the detained denounce “psychological torture” in order to obtain the declarations of Gilberto and María de Jesús.
Article 19 Mexico Chapter condemns the detentions and demands Duarte the liberation of the mexican “twitteros”:
The limits of the exercise of the right of freedom of expression are clearly defined by international law and does nor include to condemn the difusion of false information or unconfirmed.
The detention of the Twitter users for terrorism is the last effort to restrict the freedom of expression in Veracruz. The public security crisis in that state has been severely obstructing the flow of information with four killings of journalist in this year and now, the discretional use of the law to prosecute Twitter users is an excess.
Article 19 calls governor Javier Duarte to stop interfering in the excercise of freedom of expression, which includes the restriction of this right in an unjustifiable and disproportionate way.
Senator Francisco Castellón Fonseca from the PRD party, well known for his work together with civil society to defend digital rights and freedom of speech, issued a statement where he calls the actions taken by the government of Veracruz as the “most dark authoritarism”:
With plenty of respect towards the autonomy of the State of Veraruz, I asked the governor Javier Duarte to retire the charges against María de Jesús Bravo Pagola and Gilberto Martínez Vera, accused of terrorism and sabotage trough the use of internet’s social networks.
Javier Castellón Fonseca noted that governors and congressemen from Veracruz, Tabasco and Nayarit had passed anti-social networks laws and with it they “have satanized the use of this important tool of communication and the access to knowledge. They need to understand that they cannot control what circulates in the network because with this the fundamental principles of freedom of expression are breached”
Reporters Without Borders posted a blog entry [EN] where it considers this episode an illustration of:
the way the rule of law is collapsing as the federal offensive against drug trafficking continues to take its toll on Mexican society. The death toll since December 2006 is now over 45,000.
Javier Duarte has defended the decision to prosecute the Mexican citizens by tweeting that the punishment they received is not for being Twitter users but for “the consequences that their irresponsible acts caused” .
Gilberto and Maruchi are being held in the prison of Pancho Viejo in the State of Veracruz, if convicted under the article 311 of the Penal Code of the State of Veracruz they could face a sentence from 3 to 30 years in prison.