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MEXICO: Fears for safety of author Lydia Cacho

Thursday 28 May 2009 - 1:00am

Update #3 to RAN 54/05 28 May 2009

The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN (WiPC) is deeply concerned by the harassment of award-winning author, journalist and activist Lydia Cacho which has reportedly escalated over the last two weeks, giving rise to fears for her safety. Cacho reports being watched and followed by unknown armed individuals who have been seen photographing and filming her home and inspecting her car. The WiPC calls on the Mexican authorities to investigate these incidents and repeated death threats Cacho has reportedly received since February as a matter of the utmost urgency, and to take immediate measures to guarantee her safety. It also urges the authorities to fulfil its promises to make such crimes against journalists a federal offence.

On 12 May 2009 a man was reportedly seen taking photos of Lydia Cacho's apartment in Cancún and inspecting her car. On 14 May the same man, this time carrying a gun, was seen outside her apartment door; he left when a neighbour passed by. On 15 May two men in a different car reportedly parked outside her apartment door for two hours and later appeared outside her office, also in Cancún. On 22 May the first man - again armed - came back to her home with another man and reportedly filmed the building with a video camera.

According to Cacho, she has also been receiving death threats via her blog ( since February 2009, including one which reportedly threatened to "slit her throat". According to Cacho, a number of the emails in February were sent from the same computer; the authorities know the origin but refused to take action as they were "only threats".

Cacho has reported the surveillance and death threats to the Quintano Roo State police. The police have reportedly said that they would look for the owners of the cars reported but that they do not consider the threats or the presence of an armed civilian to be a criminal offence.

The ongoing harassment of and death threats against Cacho are particularly alarming given the Mexican authorities' failure to provide her with protection and legal redress in the past and the climate of violence against journalists in the country. (See Background below for more information).

Following the publication of her first book in 2005, on child pornography in Mexico (Los Demonios del Edén: el poder detrás de la pornografía - The Demons of Eden: the power behind pornography), Cacho was illegally arrested, detained and ill treated before being subjected to a year-long criminal defamation lawsuit. She was cleared of all charges in 2007, but her attempts to gain legal redress for her treatment have been thwarted while all but one of the people involved in the paedophile network she exposed in her book remain at liberty. Cacho was awarded the 2008 Tucholsky prize from Swedish PEN and the 2007 Oxfam/Novib PEN Award for Free Expression, among numerous others. She was one of the subjects of the WiPC's International Women's Day action in March 2009 and International PEN's Day of the Imprisoned Writer action in November 2006. For more information on Cacho, click here.

Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to work as a journalist. From 2004 to 2009, 22 writers - 21 print journalists and one author - have been murdered, while four more print journalists have disappeared. Few if any of these crimes have been properly investigated or punished. International PEN believes that it is likely that these journalists were targeted in retaliation for their critical reporting, particularly on drug trafficking. While organised crime groups are responsible for many attacks, state agents, especially government officials and the police, are reportedly the main perpetrators of violence against journalists, and complicit in its continuance. For more information, click here.

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