Mexican partner college administration shuts down student newspaper

To the editor:

I am writing on behalf of La Catarina staff, the student's newspaper from the Universidad de las Americas in Mexico (UDLA). Our paper was published every Wednesday, since March 5 2000. Last Tuesday Jan. 16 our school's administration prevented the newspaper from being printed.

No specific reason was given. The next day at 7:30 p.m., four people from the administration arrived in our offices along with four campus police elements. Members from La Catarina had to move everything out of the office, including our archives, posters, books, office supplies and personal belongings. We were not allowed to backup our computer files.

The administration went to the extent of cutting off the electricity in our office to prevent us from doing so. Since then, the administration has not been clear as to what will happen to our newspaper, only that it will be reorganized. It seems that La Catarina will be published with the same logo and style but managed by the student government. They will only print news approved previously by the administration.

To this day, the administration has given a bureaucratic reason for the reorganization of La Catarina to the rest of the students and local media. Nevertheless, a few members of our staff had a meeting with a vice chancellor who admitted the decision to close the paper was made last semester.

The explanation he gave was that some articles were overly critic and had a lack of respect for the university. La Catarina used to be a unique model in Mexico. No other university in our country has a newspaper that is administrated and managed editorially solely by students. We were able to generate critical thought among our peers regarding the administration's decisions.

We were a reliable and respected source for news concerning our university. It is important to notice that students alone made informative and ethical decisions. These were frequently decided by following the New York Time's Code of Ethics. The reason we are sending your newspaper this mail is because our universities have exchange programs together. We expect our college to be the best it can be and we believe that freedom of speech is essential to achieve this goal. No college student should be deprived from this right, regardless of the country they are in or their nationality.

We believe it is important to raise awareness of what is happening here, since we are sure your school would only want to be associated with colleges that respect basic rights. Our college was not like this, it used to be the best. We hope that through international pressure our college will get through this rough path and regain an administration that respects freedom of the press and speech.

We would greatly appreciate any coverage you can give us. I am writing to approximately 38 college newspapers in the U.S. That is, every school UDLA has any kind of relationship with.

-Astrid Viveros

Writer for La Catarina