Free press in Mexico: Impunity for Lydia Cacho
Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to work as a journalist – since 2006, 67 journalists have been killed and 14 have disappeared in the country.
Lydia Cacho, an author and women’s rights activist, has faced intimidation, abduction and imprisonment because of her investigative journalism. In 2005, she published Los demonios del Eden: El poder que protege a la pornografía infantil (‘The demons of Eden: the power that protects child pornography’), exposing a Mexican child pornography ring in the popular resort of Cancún. A businessman, José Kamel Nacif Borge, known as the King of Denim, because of his jeans factories in Puebla, accused Cacho of libel. He is cited in the book as having ties with Jean Succar Kuri, the owner of a hotel in Cancún who, at the time, had already been detained and charged with heading the child pornography and prostitution network. Kamel Nacif did not deny that he knew him but denied any involvement and claimed that his reputation had suffered as a result of Cacho’s book.
On 16 December 2005, Cacho was arrested at gunpoint by Puebla state officials. She endured a twenty-hour car journey from her home in Cancún to Puebla, where she was physically threatened. Upon arrival she was charged with defamation and faced up to four years in prison if found guilty.
In February 2006, taped telephone conversations between Kamel Nacif and the governor of Puebal, Mario Marín, were released to the local media. They revealed the extent to which Marín had been involved in Cacho’s arrest and detention. Kamel Nacif offered “two beautiful bottles of cognac” as a token of appreciation for the governor’s part in the arrest of Cacho. Following a year-long battle, during which she suffered repeated death threats, the defamation charges were dismissed. However, her acquittal was only the result of her case being transferred to another state where defamation is no longer considered a criminal offence.
After the tapes came to light, Cacho filed a countersuit for corruption and violation of her human rights. Disappointingly, the court in Cacho’s home state of Quintana Roo ruled that although there was evidence of arbitrary detention and torture it could not accept her case for jurisdictional reasons (it recommended that she take the case to Puebla) and closed the investigation.
In 2010, Cacho published Esclavas del poder, in which she revealed the names of people in Mexico she alleges are involved in the trafficking of women and girls. The English translation, Slavery Inc. The Untold Story of International Sex Trafficking, is published at the beginning of September by Portobello Books.
In June last year, shortly after taking part in an event in Chihuahua, northern Mexico, Cacho received further death threats by phone and email which made direct reference to her journalism. She believes that they were issued in retaliation for her having revealed the names of alleged traffickers.
More worryingly, on 29 July of this year, Cacho received a call on her handheld transceiver, used only for emergencies. An unknown a male voice referred to her by name and said: “We have already warned you, bitch, don’t mess with us. It is clear you didn’t learn with the small trip you were given. What is coming next for you will be in pieces, that is how we will send you home, you idiot.” Concerned by this breach of her security system, Cacho has since fled Mexico. Article 19 reported that she will remain out of the country while its Protection Programme for Journalists develops a strategy to provide her with adequate protection.
This courageous author will be speaking at the Edinburgh Book Festival on Saturday 25 August and will be in conversation with Helen Bamber OBE, who works with victims of trafficking, in London on 29 August
You can also send messages of support c/o: Fundación Lydia Cacho. Email: email@example.comTagged in: child pornography, free press, human rights, journalism, Lydia Cacho, Mexico, women's rights
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