Friday, July 17, 2020

Semanario ZETA Tijuana Continues to Stand Tall

Yaqui for Borderland Beat from: Zeta

                     ZETA: Libre como el Viento / Free as the Wind

As Semanario Zeta Celebrates its 40th Anniversary:
Article 19 and Reporters Without Borders, RSF, ask Governor Jaime Bonilla to stop attacking ZETA and give them guarantees of information access; ie Reporteros Sin Fronteras for its acronym in Spanish.
By: Carlos Alvarez
Article 19, an international non-governmental organization for human rights for the defense of freedom of expression and the right to information, sent this letter Wednesday, July 15, addressed to Jaime Bonilla Valdez, Governor of Baja California, in which they said that they were concerned about attacks on the press and journalists in the entity.

The letter entitled ''Letter to the Governor of Baja California: Concerning the attacks against the press and freedom of expression in the entity'', which the NGO released in its Office for Mexico and Central America, indicated that it has documented a series of attacks against the weekly ZETA , by officials of the Administration of Bonilla Valdez, as well as by the Baja California Governor himself.

Excerpt from the letter bellow:
''  ARTICLE 19 recalls that the ZETA Weekly has a long journalistic career that has been met with attacks and more attacks. In 1988 Héctor Félix Miranda, co-founder of the newspaper, was assassinated. In the same way, Francisco Ortiz Franco, editor of ZETA, was assassinated in 2004."

"In particular, the most recent escalation of these attacks stands out when, at the end of a live broadcast, the term 'LIE WITH ZETA' is used to describe any journalistic work that disagrees with the official data presented," said Article 19, which in Mexico and Central America is directed by Ana Cristina Ruelas Serna.

The international NGO asked Governor Bonilla Valdez, in the letter, to give the weekly ZETA "the same guarantees of information access that are given to other media outlets to guarantee the free flow of information in Baja California."

The non-governmental organization also called for ceasing the stigmatizing comments towards ZETA reporters, "as well as recognizing the importance of the work of the weekly's work within democracy in Baja California."

Finally, Article 19 in its office for Mexico and Central America, recalled that "the authorities must always guarantee the full exercise of journalistic work based on the right of access to information, particularly within the current context of the pandemic."

For its part, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Reporteros Sin Fronteras, an international non-governmental organization with permanent headquarters in Paris, France which defends freedom of the press around the world and, specifically, journalists persecuted for their professional activity, joined the sentencing arguments of the attacks against Adela Navarro Bello, general director of the weekly ZETA, in addition to asking Governor Bonilla Valdez "to guarantee free journalistic practice in his government."



Yesterday, Tuesday, July 14, journalist Adela Navarro Bello, general director of the weekly ZETA, denounced Governor Bonilla Valdez, through her Twitter account, who attacked the aforementioned media, but also spoke out against him, since the Governor of the State of Baja California is bothered by the information that said medium publishes.



Here is the Full Letter of ARTICLE 19 to JAIME BONILLA:

"Letter to the Governor of Baja California: Concerning attacks on the press and freedom of expression in the state.

Mexico City, July 15, 2020

Jaime Bonilla Valdez, Governor

Free and Sovereign State of Baja California

Through this letter, ARTICLE 19 - Office for Mexico and Central America wishes to express its deep concern over the situation of freedom of expression and attacks against the press in the state of Baja California, and in particular the trend of attacks directed at the ZETA Weekly.

Since the end of 2019, ARTICLE 19 has documented a series of attacks against the environment, and has repeatedly highlighted its concerns to its administration.

Having knowledge of these facts, ARTICLE 19 recalls that it is necessary for its administration to be more tolerant of criticism and the press, as well as its obligation to avoid stigmatization and attacks against journalists and the media. Since 2019, the organization has reported on the increase in attacks that are occurring in its entity.

In particular, the most recent escalation of these attacks stands out when, at the end of a live broadcast, the term “LIE WITH ZETA” is used to describe any journalistic work that disagrees with the official data presented.

Blocks and stigmatizations against the ZETA Weekly:

At a press conference on December 6, Amador Rodríguez Lozano, Secretary General of the Government in Baja California, stigmatized the ZETA Weekly. That week, the newspaper had published two editions in which Rodríguez and other officials were accused of alleged acts of corruption, given alleged bribes of 20 million pesos. In response, the official affirmed that "the weekly Zeta is angry first because they do not buy advertising, and two because we are supposedly investigating the sentimental partner of Adela Navarro." Also, in his statements, the official described the weekly's investigations as lies. ARTICLE 19 documented and was alerted to the facts. [1]

On January 16, on the anniversary of Baja California, you denied a question to a reporter from the media. In an interview with ARTICLE 19, the journalist indicated that he was asked what medium he came from. When the reporter appeared, Rodríguez Lozano replied: "There will be no interviews for ZETA."

According to information shared by the ZETA Weekly team, on February 14, leaving a broadcast, several reporters approached him to ask questions. However, to the Semanario reporter, who asked about the results of the decree on the Playas de Tijuana landlady, you only replied: "You better invent yours at once."

On January 21, a journalist from the media received a threat from a public official from the state of Baja California. As reported by the reporter, he was told that due to "friction with the authorities," their phones could be tapped and that they "be careful."

On March 2 in Mexicali, a ZETA Weekly reporter was denied entry to General Celestino Ávila's question-taking ceremony. According to what was reported by journalists from the media, they were only given access to the last 10 minutes of the event after multiple insists.

The week of March 20, some tours were organized to report on the Hospitalization Operational Unit COVID-19 at 28 Guaje de la Tuna Infantry Battalion. Multiple media were invited for the reports, but according to the information shared by the ZETA Weekly team at ARTICLE 19, when asked about possible access, the answer was "ZETA not today."

On March 28, federal and state government officials denied access to the reporter and photographer for Semanario ZETA and RadarBC, to a public event. It was about the presentation of sports infrastructure works, part of the federal government's economic and social development strategy. ARTICLE 19 documented and published an alert in this regard [2].

On May 12, 13 and 14, after the resolution of the Supreme Court of Justice regarding the reform of Article Eight of the Baja California Constitution, the Government and Social Communication of the State denied him information and interviews with the team of journalists of ZETA Weekly. This despite giving interviews to other media in the same period of time. As reported by an interviewed reporter, “we even had to put a guard on for almost three days to see if someone managed to get an interview. On the second day they told us that because we were with ZETA they were not going to receive us. ”

On May 28, when he was questioned for the use of publicity and promotion of his image in health reports on the pandemic by COVID-19, Rodriguez Lozano stigmatized the Weekly saying "I know Zeta, I say one thing and he is going to write what he wants ”[3].

On May 30, the weekly COVID-19 Update Conference stigmatized the weekly by referring to its publications on the lack of beds for COVID patients in state hospitals. Although the name of the ZETA Weekly was not stated explicitly, the report of lack of beds in hospitals was mentioned, they were branded as an alarmist newspaper and it was said that "that newspaper lives on what it does not publish." [4]

On June 1, once again, a ZETA Weekly journalist was denied an interview with you. When the reporter approached you to ask some questions, your answer was “Are you from any media? From ZETA? Are you still dating? ”

On July 7 in an informative broadcast, speaking about COVID-19 figures in the state, he scoffed at figures that some media compare to what his government reported. As reported to ARTICLE 19, the question was asked, "Where does ZETA get this from?" and later he made reference to the medium and stigmatized it, assuring that "For making a negative note from the government, there are 10 thousand pesos that ... this is quoted ... don't worry about it."

The same day, when leaving the broadcast, ZETA reporter Gerardo Andrade and another reporter approached to interview him. As reported to ARTICLE 19, Andrade asked for his opinion regarding the accusations against him by the Mayor of Tecate and replied: "You are very good at inventing so you want me to tell you, you are already inventing everything ..." Andrade wanted to ask about information about a hostel, he repeated "You all invent what you want me to tell you about."

On July 13 at the Conference on the Update on COVID-19 cases, instead of going to the questions, like every morning, they published that Adela Navarro, director of the ZETA Weekly, was following the transmission. In a mocking tone he said "We thank you, she follows us, it is very important that she is well informed so that she is not publishing things that are in the newspaper."

Finally, on July 14 at the Conference on the Update on COVID-19 cases, the Weekly was stigmatized when, at the end of this, you and the entity's Secretary of Health shared an image with the slogan “All the information that conveyed here is the truth. The rest are "LIE" WITH ZETA ". [5]

The scenarios presented here demonstrate acts of discrimination where informational access to other media is being allowed, but the weekly newspaper is being restricted to exercising its journalistic work. The information blockades, where they are denied access to certain media or journalists, violate the right of access to information for citizens. Authorities must give broad access to citizens and avoid restrictions based on approval or not of certain editorial lines.

For their part, stigmatizations generate a political climate of intimidation where self-censorship is provoked. In terms of protection of freedom of expression, both the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation and the IACHR have ruled on the requirement of greater tolerance regarding public scrutiny of officials.

Increase of aggressions in the State:

These attacks against the ZETA Weekly are not isolated incidents, and occur within the framework of an increasing trend of attacks against the press in the state and in the country.

As reported by ARTICLE 19 in its annual report "Dissonance: Voices in dispute": In 2019 Baja California gave a jump in the number of attacks against the press. In 2016, 15 attacks were documented, which increased to 18 in 2017 and 20 in 2018. This represented a sustained growth of no more than 20% in recent years. However, in 2019 32 assaults were documented, which implies an increase of 60%. This percentage jump represents a worrying trend for freedom of expression and of the press in Baja California.

Both in his state and in the rest of the country, stigmatization by public officials has serious consequences for freedom of expression, as well as for the integrity of journalists. After disqualification by public officials, there are patterns where a series of mechanisms of open harassment towards journalists are activated on digital social networks: insults, attacks and threats create a climate of intimidation for the media and journalists who ask, collate data, or criticize measures by the authorities. Likewise, political and private actors feel empowered  to whip the press. This dynamic creates the ideal conditions for more serious physical attacks.

In this sense, ARTICLE 19 recalls that the ZETA Weekly has a long journalistic career that has been met with attacks and more attacks. In 1988 Héctor Félix Miranda, co-founder of the newspaper, was assassinated. In the same way, Francisco Ortiz Franco, editor of ZETA, was assassinated in 2004.

Called to protect freedom of expression in Baja California:

Given the situations exhibited here, ARTICLE 19 reiterates that, in accordance with Mexican regulations [6] and inter-American human rights standards [7], freedom of expression in a democracy requires a plurality of means and that there is no prior discrimination of groups or individuals in access to information.

For the above ARTICLE 19:

It asks the ZETA Weekly to give the same guarantees of information access that are given to the media to guarantee the free flow of information in Baja California.

It also calls for the stigmatizing comments towards the ZETA Weekly reporters to cease, as well as to recognize the importance of the weekly's work within democracy in Baja California.

Finally, remember that the authorities must always guarantee the full exercise of journalistic work based on the right of access to information, particularly within the current context of the pandemic.

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