CPJ Protests Death Threats Against Homero Aridjis

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August 28, 1998

His Excellency Ernesto Zedillo
President of Mexico
Los Pinos
Mexico City


Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is writing to express its grave concern about a series of death threats made against Homero Aridjis, noted author and poet, president of PEN International, president of the Group of 100, and columnist for the daily Reforma.

As an organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues around the world, we are particularly concerned that threats against Aridjis were made as a result of his defense of press freedom. Aridjis began receiving threats last November, after speaking at a dinner in Mexico City hosted by CPJ and attended by many of Mexico's leading journalists. At the November 7 gathering, Aridjis discussed attacks on Mexican journalists and criticized the government for its failure to investigate them. "Many of you know that in the last five months five reporters who cover police matters were attacked and one of them was killed," Aridjis noted at the time. "If aggression is tolerated it can become indiscriminate."

The pattern of threats against Aridjis raises deep concerns about the security and privacy of reporters covering sensitive matters in Mexico. One of the threats occurred the day after he gave a telephone interview to Molly Moore, Mexico City bureau chief for The Washington Post. Speaking with Moore by phone on November 26 from New York City, Aridjis discussed the crime wave in Mexico City, including the band of kidnappers who had cut off the ears of their victims. On November 27, the following message was left on his answering machine in Mexico City: "I'm looking for you, dog. Soon you will die like dogs. I have both of you in my sights. I'm going to cut your ears off." Two days later Aridjis' housekeeper spotted two men loitering outside his house.

Aridjis received another threatening call on August 17 a few weeks after speaking about the lack of respect for freedom of expression in Mexico during a conference in Ottawa, Canada on "The Artist and Human Rights." After he returned to Mexico, a woman left a threatening message on Aridjis' answering machine: "You'll be sorry, you son of a bitch. Your daughters are whores' You're going to die very soon."

We take the threats against Homero Aridjis very seriously and are particularly concerned that the perpetrators appear to have personal information about Aridjis and his family, and are privy to his private phone conversations. In addition, the threats seemed to have come in response to public statements made by Aridjis in which he has criticized government intolerance of free expression in Mexico.

As president of PEN International, Aridjis represents the aspirations of writers around the world to exercise their right to express themselves freely. If he is harassed in his own country, then any writer anywhere can be harassed.

We call on you to guarantee the safety of Aridjis and his family, and to ensure a complete investigation into the threats on Aridjis' life.


Ann K. Cooper
Executive Director

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His Excellency
Ernesto Zedillo
President of Mexico
Los Pinos
Mexico City
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