Human Rights Center Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas, AC
San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, November 19, 2010
Press Release no. 23
The Government of Chiapas uses indirect methods to restrict freedom of expression and information, as well as harassment of journalists, blogger, twitterers and webmasters.
This Human Rights Center has information that allow to conclude that instances of the Government of the State of Chiapas (Mexico) makes use of direct and indirect methods to restrict freedom of speech and information, as well as harassment of the journalist Antony Flores Merida (Antony in the following), reporter and creator of the http://www.infochiapas.com Website, which he manages and shares in social networks through Twitter and Facebook, in which information has been published which, due to its professionalism, is shared by independent journalists in Chiapas.
Thus, the past September 30th, through his Website, he published an article under the title “Public debt in Chiapas, the highest in 16 years”, which spread rapidly over the Internet, eliciting diverse reactions against the State government.
It must be emphasized that, according to witnesses, Antony has friendships with several journalists who publish independently on electronic fora and social networks, among which are Isain Mandujano and Angeles Mariscal, who have been harassed sometimes for their articles critical of the Chiapas government. Due to this friendship, Antony knows Mr. Héctor Aníbal Bautista Flores (Héctor in the following), who is in charge of the Department of Networks and Telephony in the Tuxtla Gutiérrez-based central offices of the State Counil for Culture and the Arts (Coneculta.)
According to information received, Hector, outside his work day and as part of his professional development, sells hosting and domain-name services for websites; he also is a promoter and trainer on free-software tools and platforms, for which he teaches in workshops aimed at college professors, journalists and other participants. In this way, through friendship and collaboration, Antony asked Héctor for professional support and technical assistance to migrate the “infochiapas” blog to the http://www.infochiapas.com Website.
In this context, on November 3, 2010, approximately at 10:30 AM, in the Tuxtla facilities of Coneculta, Hector was arrested, without a warrant, by members of the Ministerial Police, taken, and placed under interrogation in the facilities of the Attorney General of the State (PGJE), besides seeing secured his work gear, such as computers, compact disks, and USB memories, among others.
According to information transmitted to this Center, Héctor was arrested for being the webmaster (provider of web hosting services) for http://www.infochiapas.com, where Antony writes and where the article “Public debt of Chiapas, the highest in 16 years”, for which Antony was harassed.
According to witnesses, during the first twelve hours family and friends of Hector, among which Antony, tried to find Héctor’s whereabouts. Around 22:00 they were able to locate him in the Special Prosecutorship for Special and Relevant Issues, where Héctor only managed to say that he had been arrested for infochiapas.
According to information in this Center’s possession, the interrogation to which Héctor was subjected centered around the infochiapas.com and chiapatuit.net websites, which at the time appeared as webmaster of the infochiapas site. During the interrogation Héctor was asked whether it was his website, whether he wrote there, who else wrote there, and if he knew Antony, as well as questions of other blogs with citizen denunciations.
On November 5, Hector was ordered detention in the facility called Quinta Pitiquitos, in Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas, accused of crimes of association to commit crimes, crimes against public morals, illegal use of public service, abuse of authority, threats against the peace and the bodily integrity of the collectivity and the state.
As we have signaled before, this form of detention is a form of illegal deprivation of freedom, for which the United Nations Organization and the Organization of American States have asked the Mexican State to retire this form of detention for being a violation of human rights.
It must also be pointed that, according to articles 12 and 13 of the Americas Convention on Human Rights and other international instruments, the Mexican State is obligated to respect and guarantee, in the broadest sense, acccess to the search for information, as well as receiving and making known opinions both own and of third parties, thorugh whichever appropriate information means that allows to make them available to the largest audience possible, as is established on the Human Rights Declaration, Article 19.
This Center has documented that, through a number of electronic media, recently-created blogs, and anonymously, there is a campaign to damage the prestige and good name of Héctor Bautista, Antony Flores, and other members of the “Chiapatuit” social network, among which are the journalists Isaín Mandujano and Ángeles Mariscal.
It must be remembered that this Human Rights Center, its members, people, and collectives whom we work with, have been victims of similar campaigns to discredit and criminalize them, in order to restrict our work, particularly in the public denunciation of human-rights violations in Chiapas.
For these reasons, this Human Righs Center condemns the actions that mean to apply censorship, harassment, and criminalization against individuals who exert their right to freedom of speech and information in the State of Chiapas. It therefore demands:
* Immediate freedom for Héctor Bautista Flores
* Stop the harassment and criminalization of individuals who exert their right to freedom of speech and information in the State of Chiapas.
* Investigation of the officials of the Attorney General (PGJE) and the Institute of Social Communication (Press Office) of the Chiapas Government for the illegal detention and the discredit and criminalization campaigns, respectively.