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‘Terrorist’ Tweeters freed

September 24, 2011

Two people charged with terrorism for posting false rumors on social networking site Twitter were released from jail in Veracruz Wednesday.

Maria de Jesus Bravo and Gilberto Martinez Vera walked out of prison to cheering supporters after authorities dropped the charges against them.

“Thank God that freedom of expression won,” said Bravo, a local journalist and radio commentator. She and math teacher Martinez spent almost a month in jail for “tweeting” about a supposed attack on a primary school by drug gangs.

Local authorities charged the pair with terrorism and sabotage, arguing that their messages had caused panic among frantic parents who dashed to the school to rescue their children.

Human rights groups protested the case, causing embarrassment for Veracruz Governor Javier Duarte, who passed a new law on Tuesday allowing the prosecution of rumormongers on the lesser charge of disturbing the peace. This paved the way for Bravo and Martinez’s release.

The case has also emphasized Mexico’s increasing reliance on social media networks for real-time information on violence in their hometowns. Although they often spread false rumor, microblogging sites could potentially fill the void left by traditional news sources that are increasingly being silenced by intimidation or bribes.

This trend has not gone unnoticed by the criminals. Only last week the bodies of two young people were found hanging from a bridge in Nuevo Laredo in retaliation for using Twitter to report a crime. The killers left a message warning “This is going to happen to all of those posting silly things on the internet.”

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