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Mexico: Online Activists Targeted

This is a guest blog entry by ARTICLE 19.

Mexico City 29.09.11: After being reported missing on the 23 September 2011 – after leaving the office Elizabeth Macias Castro, Chief Editor for the daily newspaper “Primera Hora”, was found dead in a public plaza on 24 September 2011 near Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipa. A message was attached to Elizabeth’s body accusing her of collaborating with the army and marine intelligence services by posting information online that related to organized crime activities. ARTICLE 19 expresses its deepest condolences to Elizabeth’s family and colleagues and calls upon the local government of Tamaulipas to launch an immediate investigation into the murder and bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice.

The killing of Elizabeth takes place just two weeks after a man and a woman, identified as users of Twitter by the local authorities, were found hanging from a bridge. Similarly to Elizabeth’s murder, a message was left at the crime scene in which the victims were accused of using social media to speak out against the criminal activities in Nuevo Laredo.

The message found with Elizabeth’s body highlighted her online activities on a website called “Nuevo Laredo en Vivo” (Nuevo Laredo Live). According to website, it is an online tool “for the citizens of Nuevo Laredo, who are committed to inform each other of what is happening in the city.” It is also used as a chat room and information message board to help users who fall foul to threats from criminal gangs. Elizabeth was an active participant on the website, providing information and moderating some of the discussion forums.

“The increasing number of deaths of social media activists due to their online activities is an extremely worrying development for Mexico. ARTICLE 19 will be closely monitoring the situation and expresses its solidarity with those brave citizens that are willing to break the silence in the face of deadly repercussions,” said Darío Ramírez, Director of ARTICLE19 office for Mexico and Central America.

Against a backdrop of endemic violence against journalists, social networks and other online communication platforms such as “Nuevo Laredo en Vivo” are increasingly being used by citizens – especially in Tamaulipas break the silence around criminal activities that are not being reported in the press because of the pervading climate of fear and self-censorship.

The declaration of principles of freedom of expression of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights acknowledges that issuing threats, murder, kidnapping and intimidation violates fundamental human rights, particularly the freedom of expression.

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