Mexican court absolves journalist held for three years on drug charges

The Mexican authorities have released journalist Jesús Lemus Barajas, the founder of El Tiempo newspaper, who had been held for three years on charges of having ties to the drug trafficking cartels he was investigating for the paper, EFE reports.

Lemus was arrested May 7, 2008 in the central Mexican city of Cuerámaro, Guanajuato, a region that has remained mostly at the margins of drug trafficking violence, and was eventually sentenced to 20 years in prison. According to EFE, he spent three years in prison before being freed by a Guanajuato state judge, who ruled that “there are no grounds for even the least suspicion that [Lemus] was linked to drug trafficking or organized crime activities, he is absolved of all charges.”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) demanded an explanation into why Lemus was convicted and held so long “in the absence of any evidence against him.”

The journalist told Reporters Without Borders that he believes he was arrested for his reporting: “What is clear to me is the government’s hypersensitivity to criticism and the determination of the authorities to use force to obstruct freedom of expression…My work was helping to shed light on the relations that exist between government circles and certain drug cartels.”

Lemus plans to leave Mexico with his family for exile the United States, as he believes it is too dangerous to practice journalism in the country where at least 68 journalists have been killed and another 13 are missing and presumed dead since 2000.

Other Related Headlines:
» Knight Center (2010 Report: Drug gangs and gov’t forces responsible for growth in violence against press in Mexico)
» Knight Center (Organized crime represents media's leading predator, says new Reporters Without Borders report)

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.