NEWS TIGHTLY CONTROLLED IN CHIAPAS
The flow of information is tightly controlled in Chiapas by both the authorities and the Zapatista rebels, reports the International Press Institute's (IPI) "IPI Report" (Fourth Quarter 1998.) James Smith of the "Los Angeles Times" reports for IPI on his trip to Chiapas in an article entitled "In Chiapas, the Search for Truth is Frustrating." Smith describes his journey to the conflict-ridden state of Chiapas in southern Mexico as one series of roadblocks after another. Since the 1994 uprising by the rebels, the government has kept a heavy army presence in the state. They set up roadblocks into zones declared autonomous by the Zapatistas and their supporters - who in turn set up their own roadblocks at the entrance to each community. Sometimes Smith was unable to obtain permission to talk to anybody, other times he had to wait at length for an official Zapatista spokesperson to comment on the current situation. Since the massacre in December 1997 of 45 Zapatista supporters in Acteal, the region has been very tense, and there have been "increasingly bloody clashes," says Smith.
Although "the Mexican government denied in March that it had tightened restrictions on foreign journalists," IPI reports, Associated Press (AP) Bureau Chief Eloy Aguilar "said he'd been informed of the new limitations - including a requirement that correspondents inform the government in advance of travels to conflict zones, as well as complicated new rules for temporary journalist visas."