Mexico City, April 27, 2021 – Authorities in the Mexican states of Baja California and Sonora should immediately rescind letters ordering the news website Yo Rechazo la Corrupción y la Impunidad to take down articles covering alleged corruption by a political candidate, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On March 23, Dianeth Pérez Arreola, an investigative reporter and the website’s founder, received a letter from the office of the Special Prosecutor for Attention to Electoral Crimes of Baja California state, ordering her to remove any references to Natalia Rivera, a local political candidate, from the outlet’s website, according to the journalist, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview, and a copy of the letter, which CPJ reviewed.
On April 19, Pérez Arreola receive two additional letters, which CPJ reviewed—one from the Baja California state prosecutor’s office and one from the office of the Special Prosecutor for Electoral Crimes of Sonora state—again ordering her to refrain from publishing any content referencing Rivera.
The letters warned that Pérez Arreola could be arrested or fined if she refused to comply.
The journalist told CPJ that she took down much of her reporting on Rivera after receiving those letters. CPJ called Rivera several times for comment, but she did not answer the phone.
“It is outrageous that the authorities in Baja California and Sonora are using a law meant to combat gender violence to stop Dianeth Pérez Arreola from publishing work critical of a political candidate,” said Jan-Albert Hootsen, CPJ’s Mexico representative. “We call on the authorities of both states to immediately stop what clearly constitutes harassment of Pérez Arreola and allow the press to freely cover elections, without fear of reprisal.”
All three letters allege that Pérez Arreola violated the Sonoran General Law for Women’s Access to Life Free of Violence in videos that she published about the candidate, and alleged that her coverage of Rivera constituted harassment.
The letters ordered Pérez Arreola to refrain from publishing details about Rivera “unrelated to the candidate’s public life” and warned her not to “denigrate or degrade a woman.”
Rivera works in the Sonora governor’s office and is a candidate for the federal Chamber of Deputies to represent Sonora in the upcoming June 6 elections; on February 23, Yo Rechazo la Corrupción y la Impunidad published a video alleging that Rivera had used her position as a public official to illegally enrich herself. CPJ reviewed that video and another, from the previous day, announcing the upcoming investigation; the videos have since been taken offline.
Pérez Arreola told CPJ that she had also uploaded two other videos about Rivera—one as a preview for an upcoming investigation, and one with new corruption allegations—on March 1, and had taken them both down after receiving the letters. CPJ was unable to review those two videos.
Pérez Arreola told CPJ that that she has continued publishing articles about the candidate, including one on March 26 and another on April 21, accusing Rivera of using Baja California and Sonora state authorities to harass and intimidate her, and she also published a video on April 21 containing corruption allegations.
“My lawyers told me that it is very strange that I was first approached by the authorities of Baja California and not by those of Sonora, where Natalia Rivera is based,” Pérez Arreola told CPJ, adding that Rivera had not contacted her asking for a right to reply to the allegations in her reporting. Pérez Arreola is based in Mexicali, the capital of Baja California.
“The allegations are absurd, as none of the videos were about Rivera’s personal life and none of them contained any content that would be degrading to her as a woman,” Pérez Arreola said.
CPJ repeatedly called the Special Prosecutor for Attention to Electoral Crimes of Baja California state and the Sonora state prosecutor’s office for comment, but no one answered.