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Suspected plot to silence journalist revealed

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is disturbed by the revelation of a plot apparently targeting Lydia Cacho Ribeiro, a freelance journalist and contributor to the daily "La Voz del Caribe" in Cancún, eastern Mexico.

Recordings of compromising telephone conversations between textile magnate José Camel Nacif and various political figures were published by the press on 14 February 2006. Some extracts from these discussions show a desire to silence the journalist and to influence the outcome of a "defamation" case against her, the press freedom organisation said.

"If their authenticity is confirmed, these conversations show the intention to destroy the career and reputation of Lydia Cacho Ribeiro", RSF said. "We call on the judicial authorities of Quintana Roo province in eastern Mexico, responsible for investigating and trying Lydia Cacho Ribeiro for defamation in a case brought by José Camel Nacif, to be extremely vigilant in the face of political pressure that is being applied to this case."

"We also urge that these recordings be authenticated as quickly as possible and that, if necessary, an investigation is launched into the political figures involved," RSF added.

On 14 February, the daily "La Jornada" and the station W Radio published and broadcast the contents of 12 telephone recordings delivered to the two media by an anonymous messenger.

The series of recordings are of several phone conversations in which Camel Nacif speaks in turn to the governor of Puebla in central Mexico, Mario Marín, and Pablo Salazar Mendiguchía, governor of Chiapas in the south; to other textile bosses, including "Hubert", a French national; Luis Angel Casas, financial co-ordinator of Marín's election campaign; his Lebanese compatriot, Hanna Nakad Bayeh, known as "Juanito"; and to a journalist on a national daily and radio station, with the first name Andrés or "Muñeco".

These recordings, of which RSF has received a copy of the transcripts, show a clear and concerted intention to bring down Cacho Ribeiro. The journalist is being sued for libel by Camel Nacif, after she referred to his alleged involvement in a pedophile ring in her 2004 book "The Demons of Eden".

According to the recordings, Camel Nacif had apparently struck a deal with the authorities in Puebla state where the libel case was first lodged, for Cacho Ribeiro to be imprisoned. She was detained there in December 2005 for 24 hours.

The discussions are often very insulting, even obscene, and one of them is outright threatening. Camel Nacif speaks of conditions of the journalist's detention and says he hopes she will be sexually abused in prison.

In these same recordings, Camel Nacif also raises the impact her trial could have on that of Jean Succar Kuri, a Lebanese friend of his, currently imprisoned in the United States for his alleged involvement in the pedophile ring the journalist exposed.

Valentín Meneses, spokesman for governor Marín, refused to confirm if one of the voices on the recording was that of the governor. During an interview given to W Radio, Meneses said that the recordings violated the laws on the protection of privacy and that Marín had nothing to do with the case.

The broadcasting of the recordings provoked an outcry in Mexico. Felipe Calderón, a member of the ruling National Action Party (PAN) and a candidate in the presidential elections of 2 July 2006, has called for an investigation.

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