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143Libel Cases as Harassment in Mexico

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  • Alberto M. Giordano
    Jan 10, 2001
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      This is a a translation of an article by
      a Mexican attorney about two libel cases
      in that country, one of them against a
      columnist who criticized an ex president
      and his actress wife, another against two
      journalists who reported on the protection
      of narco-traffickers by public officials.

      In both cases there was no jury trial but
      the journalists were declared guilty by
      judges.

      This reveals the kind of persecution that
      Mario Menendez and the daily Por Esto!
      faced for four years in Mexico even before
      Akin Gump brought its harassing lawsuit
      in New York.

      ---

      Justice or Repression?

      By Attorney Joel Sanchez Rodriguez

      The journalist Isabel Arvide was sentenced by the 8th Circuit Court, on
      third and final appeal, to pay five million pesos ($500,000 US dollars) to
      Mrs. Alejandra Popovich (a.k.a. Sasha Montenegro), for the concept of
      reparation of moral damages, that according to the judges, is owed to
      reports she published in Impacto magazine in two articles edited in 1997.

      In those texts, the journalist Isabel Arvide referred to �Sasha Montenegro,�
      wife of ex- president Jose Lopez Portillo y Pacheco, as �a faded nude
      actress�, while in the second article, she said that the children of the
      �actress� and the politician were �illegitimate and bastards.�

      Although the woman acted in dozens of films that are not at all recommended
      and were not artistic, and that all the world knows it, and that the Oceano
      and Larousse dictionaries define the word Bastard as �illegitimate, a child
      born out of wedlock,� Sasha Montenegro said she was victim of moral damages
      and with the political and economic power of her husband, she went to defend
      her honor and that of her children, that, according to her, were discredited
      by the journalist.

      No middle aged person in our country doesn�t know that the grand part of the
      work that Alejandra Popovich conducted as an actress, she did without
      clothing or with very little clothing, and that the majority of her films
      were rated �C�, and this is indisputable. However, it ought to worry the
      Mexican People, the fact that in this case the judges acted not with the
      spirit of justice, but that of repression and obeying political influence
      more than the law.

      It�s certain that the journalist used a very strong term to refer to the
      children of the ex president and that the word bastard has a subjective
      meaning in Mexico, but the law doesn�t have a subjective character and must
      comply with the letter of the law and not in a subjective form. And the same
      is true of morality.

      It�s also certain that although many want to see it as an act of justice,
      the sentence against the journalist is an act of repression, of reprisal for
      what she wrote: the dictionary makes her right, but the judges punish her.

      Based on the sentence that was dictated, and the journalist has already lost
      since the end of September, her house, her car, her furniture and still the
      amount that she must pay because the for the judges, there was moral damage
      against the ex president, his wife and their children.

      What happened with Isabel Arvide, lamentably, is not an isolated case of
      repression against a communicator. In the city of Chihuahua, the journalists
      Antonio Pinedo and Luis Villagrana of Semanario magazine are accused of
      libeling and slandering the ex chief of Public Security for Juarez City,
      Javier Benavides, who is a collaborator of President elect Vicente Fox.

      Based on information published in other media, and in an investigation of
      alleged drug crimes against the ex police chief, th journalists reported
      that Javier Benavides and other high ranking police protected narco
      traffickers.

      For a court judge, this was sufficient to consider that Antonio Pinedo and
      Luis Villagrana had committed libel and he ordered their arrests based on
      the finding that they were already detained, although they obtained release
      on bail and are subject to a process of waiting for the sentence to be
      handed down.

      The judge, apparently obeying the political influence of Javier Benavides,
      seemed to have the intention of punishing the journalists for doing their
      job. This is not justice. It�s repression.

      Supposedly in Mexico we live in a country of laws and enjoy freedom of
      expression as an individual guarantee. But the cases cited here reveal an
      apparatus of justice that is repressor, at the service of political and
      economic interests and not of the law.

      It seems that they are trying to return to the past and permit a subjective
      �free� expression: �It�s free but don�t mess with the powerful, because they
      accuse you of moral damage and libel.�

      The Freedom of Expression that our Constitution guarantees in Article 7 is
      the base of all the guarantees that we, the Mexican People, enjoy: to act
      against the communicators for doing their job or expressing ideas cannot be
      seen as an act of justice.

      It is repression, dressed as justice. It�s a clear form of an attack on
      liberty and is, at the time, a reversal for the system of justice and for a
      people that want to be free. Now it proves that we continue being slaves of
      whoever can do more politically or has more economic power.

      It is proved that the courts don�t always make justice, at times they are
      wrong, but the popular judgement is not and the people demand, and continue
      demanding, that Freedom of Expression be respected in Mexico and that no
      more should periodistas be punished for excersizing their rights.

      (Originally published on Saturday, October 7, 2000, in the weekly newspaper
      AVANZANDO in the city of Pachuca, de Soto, Hidalgo.)

      _________________________________________________________________________
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