Radio director’s home shot at by unidentified gunmen
New York, April 25, 2008—The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by the shooting of a Mexican journalist’s house in the southern state of Oaxaca, in what appears to have been a targeted attack, on April 18.
The day before the shooting, Melchor López, general director of Radio Mixteca (88.7 FM), a commercial station based in Santiago Juxtlahuaca, said he was followed by white Jeep Liberty truck after leaving work in the late evening. Instead of going home, he returned to the station. López said he watched the same truck, along with other vehicles, routinely passing by the station, slowing down, and then circling back again. All of the cars had tinted windows and lacked license plates.
The next morning, on April 18, López asked a friend to escort him home, where he stayed briefly before returning to work. At approximately 9 a.m., López’s wife, Yadira Torres Méndez, called her husband to tell him that a white truck had driven by their house and fired some 10 gunshots. Nobody was injured in the attack. López then called the police, who escorted him home, and left immediately for Mexico City.
“We call on the Mexican authorities to promptly investigate the shooting and threats against Melchor López,” said CPJ Senior Americas Program Coordinator Carlos Lauría. “The government has created special institutions to deal with attacks on the press, and we call on them now to take the steps necessary to ensure that journalists in Oaxaca are given protection.”
In Mexico City, López reported the incident to the government’s National Human Rights Commission, federal law enforcement officials, and the attorney general’s special prosecutor in charge of crimes against the press. He has yet to be told whether he will receive police protection once he returns home. Earlier this week, a colleague at the radio station in Oaxaca said he found a threatening note in his car directed at López.
Radio Mixteca primarily covers cultural, education, and health issues in the Mixteca indigenous region. It also broadcasts on the Internet (radiomixteca.com.mx) and has thus been popular for migrants from Santiago Juxtlahuaca living in the United States.
López and his colleagues say they began receiving a series of threats in the lead-up to Oaxaca’s October 2007 municipal election, after broadcasting local voter polls. The threats, mostly delivered via cell phone text messages, online chat messages, and notes left on car windshields, were largely pegged to a series of voter surveys that showed candidates from the Institutional Revolutionary Party trailing in the polls. The station also refused to endorse any candidates in the election, a move that generated tension between the station and local politicians, López said.
On April 16, López aired reports published in the national press about Rubén Gil, a mayor from the state of Puebla, who is currently facing drug charges in New York City. It is believed that the alleged drug-smuggling politician has ties to politicians in Oaxaca, which neighbors Puebla state.
The attack against López comes on the heels of the nearby murder of two community radio hosts on April 7, when gunmen opened fire on their vehicle on a rural highway in southern Oaxaca. The two women, Teresa Bautista Merino, 24, and Felicitas Martínez Sánchez, 20, worked for a community radio station called “La Voz que Rompe el Silencio” (The Voice that Breaks the Silence) in the Triqui indigenous town of San Juan Copala, about 220 miles (354 kilometers) west of the state capital of Oaxaca.