Two armed men entered the Sierra Madre office of the daily El Norte in San Pedro in the northern state of Nuevo Leon yesterday and fired several shots before setting the premises on fire. Two people were injured slightly in the attack, the third on the newspaper in less than a month.
“This was the third attack on El Norte newspaper offices in less than a month,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“We are extremely concerned about the safety of the organization’s journalists and other employees and we urge the local and federal authorities to take steps to find those responsible and to take concrete action urgently to protect the newspaper.”
About 15 people were on the premises when the two men, with several accomplices, arrived in four cars. They threatened the security guard before pouring gasoline inside the building and setting fire to it.
11.07.2012 - Three grenade attacks on newspapers in one day, post-election tension continues
Armed attacks on news media are relatively common in northern Mexico, but the region saw three grenade attacks on newspaper buildings in a single day yesterday and in one case shots were also fired at the building’s facade.
The targeted publications were El Mañana, a daily based in Nuevo Laredo (in Tamaulipas state), which suffered a similar attack on 11 May; La Silla, the weekly supplement of El Norte, a daily based in Monterrey (in Nuevo León state); and Linda Vista, another El Norte supplement produced in Guadalupe, on the outskirts of Monterrey.
El Norte has sustained three similar attacks in the past two years, on 20 September 2010, 10 January 2011 and 31 March 2011. The authorities have never identified those responsible.
“The origin of yesterday’s attacks, in which fortunately no one was hurt, are a mystery, especially as one of the targets, El Norte, does not cover sensitive subjects or stories likely to expose its staff to direct danger,” Reporters Without Borders said. “El Mañana, whose editor, Roberto Mora, was murdered in 2004, had already reduced its crime coverage after being the target of similar attacks in the past.
“The local and federal officials who investigate these attacks should explore all possibilities. We are obviously most concerned about the individual and collective protection of the journalists and other employees working for these newspapers. This should be the priority.”
Reporters Without Borders points out that a total of 85 journalists have been killed and 15 others have gone missing in the past decade in Mexico.
In the attack on El Mañana, shortly after 6 a.m., the grenade was apparently fired from a long distance, almost certainly with a grenade launcher. The explosion damaged part of the wall near the main entrance. In the attack at around 4 a.m. on La Silla in Monterrey, the grenade was thrown from the newspaper’s car park and damaged part of the building’s facade. In the assault on the Guadalupe-based Linda Vista, the grenade explosion at around 4 p.m. was accompanied by shorts fired from an AR-15-style assault rifle.
Reporters Without Borders is also worried about the dangers to journalists and freedom of information as a result of tension in the wake of the 1 July federal election. Threats and acts of intimidation are continuing. Could this lead to censorship?
We were stunned to learn that Soriana, a company that owns newsstand concessions, refused to display issue No. 1862 of the weekly news magazine Proceso, which had a photo of the successful presidential candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), on its cover together with the words “Bought election.”
The issue included a story about links between Peña and Soriana, which has been linked to alleged election rigging in favour of the PRI. Proceso’s preceding issue experienced the same distribution problems on Soriana’s newsstands. Its front cover showed the logo of the national TV company Televisa wearing the presidential sash because its election coverage was widely regarded as biased.