Outrage and surprise greeted the 5 July arrest of the investigative journalist Sanjuana Martínez, who works for the newspaper La Jornada and is noted for her campaigns on behalf of abused women and children.
The official reason given for her arrest, in Monterrey in Nuevo Leon state, was that it was part of divorce proceedings between the journalist and her husband, the Spanish judge Carlos Castresana.
Martínez was finally released on 7 July. Reached by Reporters Without Borders, her lawyer, Queeney Rose Osorio, described her detention as “completely abnormal, one that goes far beyond a legal and administrative procedure.”
“Does anyone seriously believe that three police officers were justified in marching Sanjuana Martínez off to jail like a common felon on the basis of civil proceedings that were in no way criminal in nature?” the press freedom organization asked.
“The pretext is so implausible and misleading that it could be seen at best as personal revenge by the judge who ordered it, with whom the journalist is in serious dispute, or at worst as a desire to punish Sanjuana Martínez for her views and the stands she has taken.
“The case has come at a bad time as the post-election crisis gripping the country has focused attention on respect for civil liberties and constitutional rights.”
The arrest itself was the first reason for outrage, since the person concerned was not told the reasons or shown any legal documents to support it. It was only after Martinez had been taken into custody that her lawyer was given a copy of an arrest warrant issued by Judge Luz María Guerrero Delgado.
The second was the reason given by the judge, namely the divorce between the journalist and her husband, who is claiming custody of their children. The same judge had previously threatened Martinez with the loss of her parental rights.
The two women have been in conflict ever since Martinez criticized a heavy-handed raid on the women’s rights organization Alternativas Pacíficas in September 2008, as a result of which two dependent children were removed from their mother, who had been the victim of domestic violence, and returned to the care of their father. The police operation, which had been ordered by Judge Guerrero Delgado, ended with the arrest of the NGO’s director, María del Mar Álvarez Morales.
On 2 July, Martinez, a campaigner and activist, spoke out in an editorial about allegations of fraud in the federal election. Reporters Without Borders, while refraining from linking the legal proceedings to her comments, cannot ignore the impact of the political crisis on freedom of information and expression. Intimidation and threats continue against those who draw attention to it.