By Carolina Peredo
Journalist and activist Lydia Cacho Ribeiro was abducted in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo and tortured en route to Puebla after publishing a book, titled the "The Demons of Eden," on an investigation that linked local politicians and police to a child pornography and prostitution network.
The organization Article 19 supported Cacho’s case and accompanied her to speak before the Human Rights Commission (HRC) at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Cacho is the first Mexican journalist to personally appear and present her case at the United Nations.
In her report, Cacho told the HRC she was a victim of sexual and psychological assault when she was detained in Cancún, Quitana Roo by the state police of Puebla. The police accused Cacho of defaming a textile businessman from Puebla, Kamel Nacif, who was linked in Cacho’s book to child sex trafficking.
Cacho’s case was documented in the report “Impunity. Violence against Women Journalists. Legal Analysis,” published in August 2013 by the group Women’s Communication and Information to address Cacho’s detention and the state of impunity surrounding her case. The organization Article 19 took advantage of the opportunity to make public several recordings in which then-Puebla governor Mario Marin tells Kamel Nacif that he could punish the journalist for what she had published.
After a long, intense defense process and a year after her detention, Cacho was absolved of all charges. After her release, however, the journalist who has won awards such as the Human Rights Watch Award for the Defense of Human Rights continued to receive assault and death threats. In 2012, she decided to leave Mexico. Nine years after her capture, Cacho was given the opportunity to speak before international authorities about the complacency of politicians in organized crime in Mexico and how journalists run a constant risk of death.
News of Cacho’s appearance at the UN was reported by various national and international platforms. Mexico’s EconomiaHoy featured quotations from Cacho before her UN presentation. “Colleagues who do the same work as me have been murdered,” Cacho said in her presentation to the UN. “I’m alive so I can tell my story about how the state works against free expression to maintain things just as they are.”
The unprecedented presentation by a Mexican journalist comes in the midst of another possible attack against the Mexican press. On Oct. 10, the family of journalist Jesus Antonio Gamboa Urias reported his disappearance in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. There has been, however, no updated information on the alleged abduction of the director of the political magazine Nueva Prensa.
Sinaloa is one of the most violent states in Mexico and one of the most dangerous in which to practice journalism, a pattern that has only increased since the capture of the drug cartel boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman last February. Since then, organizations like the Inter-American Press Society, Article 19 and Ifex have reported repeated cases of aggression and censorship against journalists.
After presenting to the UN, Cacho spoke with Panorama, a group dedicated to covering the human rights system at the UN. “There exists clear evidence that Mexico is a narco-state and in order for that to happen [the state, in its different levels] has to provide impunity,” she said. Cacho is now awaiting a decision from the UN as to whether or not they will sanction Mexico for a violation of individual rights.
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.