New York, August 19, 2002—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is alarmed that Mexican journalist and author Isabel Arvide has been charged with criminal defamation.
Judge Armando Rodrígues Gaytán of the Second Penal Court in the district of Morales, Chihuahua, in north central Mexico, confirmed to CPJ that Arvide has been charged with criminal defamation. According to Mexico's Criminal Code, Arvide faces six months to two years in prison if convicted.
Chihuahua state police arrested Arvide on Friday, August 19, at the airport in Chihuahua City as she was boarding a flight for Mexico City. She was detained for more than 24 hours and released Saturday night after paying a bail of 100,000 Mexican pesos (US$10,000).
The charges follow a June 2 article by Arvide that appeared on the journalist's own Web site, www.isabelarvide.com, and in the daily, Milenio, which is published in Mexico City.
In the article, Arvide accused Osvaldo Rodrígues Borunda, the executive director and publisher of the Mexican newspaper El Diario de Chihuahua, of being involved in drug trafficking and money laundering.
"While journalists must be responsible for their reporting," said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper, "criminally prosecuting a journalist for doing her job is an egregious violation of press freedom."
Arvide has written many exposés about drug traffickers, corruption, and violence. She is also author of the book Muerte in Juarez (Death in Juarez). She was in Chihuahua covering a tour of the region by the national director of the Institutional Revolutionary Party when she was arrested at the Chihuahua airport.
"I have never been so scared," she said to the daily El Heraldo de Chihuahua. "I thought they were going to kill me." Arvide maintains that the arresting authorities failed to properly identify themselves or to clarify the charges against her at the time of arrest. Judge Rodrígues had issued the warrant for her arrest on June 16.