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Mexican daily offices attacked by gunmen

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New York, November 15, 2011--A group of unidentified gunmen attacked the premises of the Mexican daily El Siglo de Torreón early this morning, setting a car on fire and shooting at the building several times.

Around 2:40 a.m., at least three assailants parked two vehicles in front of the newspaper's offices in the city of Torreón in the northern state of Coahuila, the paper reported. They set one of the cars on fire in front of El Siglo's main door and left in the other. Before fleeing, the gunmen used assault rifles to spray the premises with about 20 bullets that police recovered at the scene, editor Javier Garza told CPJ. One of the offices suffered some damage, but there were no injuries, he said. Federal and state police, as well as members of the Mexican army, arrived at the scene shortly after the attack.

"We condemn the attack against El Siglo de Torreón and urge Mexican authorities to launch a thorough investigation and bring the perpetrators to justice," said Carlos Lauría, CPJ's Americas senior program coordinator. "Criminal organizations will continue targeting the Mexican media unless federal authorities take decisive and timely actions to guarantee journalists' safety."

According to Garza, the newspaper had not received any threats. He said that El Siglo de Torreón had published information about military actions in the area in recent weeks, but could not point to any specific report that could have triggered retaliation from armed groups. A similar attack occurred in August 2009, when gunmen fired several shots at the newspaper, but an investigation into the attack by state authorities produced no results.

Garza said that journalists at El Siglo de Torreón practice self-censorship when covering organized crime. Reporters do not identify by name groups involved in shootouts, arrests, or raids, he told CPJ. The other precautionary measures they take include removing bylines and rotating reporters out of crime beats, he said.

This is the second attack against a media facility in 10 days. On November 6, gunmen stormed the newsroom of the daily El Buen Tono in the state of Veracruz, vandalized equipment, and set the premises on fire, according to local press reports. Vanguardia, a newspaper in the city of Saltillo, was the target of a hand grenade attack. in May. In February, gunmen attacked the facilities of two media companies in the city of Torreón, destroyed equipment, and killed a TV engineer. Last year, more than a dozen news facilities were attacked with either guns or explosives.

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