Reporters Without Borders calls on the authorities in the north-central state of Zacatecas to do everything possible to find two employees of the Mexico City-based business daily El Financiero, regional circulation supervisor Osvaldo García Iñiguez and driver José de Jesús Ortiz Parra, who went missing on a Zacatecas highway on 14 November. Both the local and federal police are looking for them.
In a separate development, gunmen opened fire on the headquarters of the El Siglo de Torreón newspaper in Torreón, in the northern state Coahuila, in the early hours of 15 November, damaging the building’s facade but causing no injuries.
“The disappearance of the two circulation employees has again shown that not only journalists but also media personnel of any kind are exposed to attacks or reprisals, whatever their jobs,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Rodolfo Ochoa, a TV technician working for Canal 9 in Torreón, was killed in shooting attack on the station on 11 February.
“Measures to protect media premises will not solve anything as long as these attacks go unpunished. We hope the two El Financiero employees will be found safe and sound as soon as possible.”
Sources told Reporters Without Borders that García and Ortiz were driving along the highway between Zacatecas, the state capital, and the nearby town of Jerez when they posted a message on Twitter from a mobile phone saying they were being followed by what appeared to be two federal police cars. There has been no news of them since then. They had been heading to Guadalajara in the neighbouring west-central state of Jalisco.
El Financiero has announced the suspension of all distribution in Zacatecas state until its roads have been made safe.
El Siglo de Torreón’s deputy editor Javier Garza recounted the attack on the newspaper to Reporters Without Borders. “At around 2:40 a.m., three people in two cars stopped in front of the building’s main entrance. They drove one of the vehicles up on to the sidewalk and set fire to it.” Then they opened fire on the building with large-calibre guns.
It was the second attack of this kind on the newspaper. The police never established who was responsible for the earlier attack, in August 2009. “We have not published anything out of the ordinary,” Garza added. “This could be a message, a warning or an act of intimidation, but we do not know what kind.” He said journalists in Torreón had “no guarantees.”
News media are often the direct targets of violence. In the one of the most recent cases, the premises of the daily El Buen Tono in Córdoba, in the east-coast state of Veracruz, were gutted by a fire started by gunmen on 6 November.
Members of President Felipe Calderón’s government often refer to a proposed constitutional reform that would make it easier for crimes of violence against journalists and other violations of the right to news and information to be handled at the federal level. The proposed reform was adopted by the lower house on 11 November and is now awaiting the senate’s approval.
“We welcome this reform with interest as long as the necessary resources are assigned to its implementation,” Reporters Without Borders said. “But will putting the federal authorities in charge of such cases suffice to stop the carnage?
“It is long overdue, given that 80 journalists have been murdered and 14 have gone missing in the past decade and given that the creation of a Special Prosecutor’s Office for Crimes against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE) in February 2006 has had no significant effect. But it will not offset the toll from the federal offensive against drug trafficking, which has considerably eroded civil liberties in Mexico.”