Journalist in hiding after being attacked

New York, February 10, 2005-The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the recent attack on Mexican journalist Jorge Cardona Villegas, who covers crime in the northern state of Nuevo León. Since the attack, he has gone into hiding.

At around 5:50 a.m. on Monday, February 7, Cardona’s house and his car were hit by several rounds of bullets, allegedly fired by one armed assailant, Assistant State Prosecutor Aldo Fasci Zuazua told CPJ. Cardona, who lives alone and was sleeping at the time, stayed on the floor until the police came and was not injured. The police found more than 50 bullet cases from a machine gun.

Cardona is a crime reporter for the Televisa network affiliate in the city of Monterrey, in northern Nuevo León state. Televisa Monterrey News Director Juan Francisco Cobos said that neither Cardona nor the TV station staff had received any threats.

Cobos believes that the attack may have come in retaliation for a two-part report broadcast on February 3 and 4. Cardona reported on the cases of several kidnapped or missing U.S. citizens in the border city of Nuevo Laredo, in the state of Tamaulipas across from the Texas city of Laredo.

Relatives of the victims alleged in the report that local authorities were involved in the kidnappings and disappearances. Cardona also interviewed a former member of the Los Zetas paramilitary group, which allegedly includes army defectors who are said to provide intelligence and protection to the Tamaulipas-based Gulf drug cartel. Cardona’s report concluded that Los Zetas was also involved in the kidnappings, Cobos said.

State authorities have begun an investigation into the attack on Cardona. The assistant state prosecutor told CPJ his office was examining two motives: the journalist’s work, or personal reasons.

The reporter is currently at an undisclosed location, Cobos said.

Reporters in the U.S.-Mexico border region risk grave danger covering sensitive topics such as drug trafficking. Two border journalists were killed for their work in 2004. Francisco Ortiz Franco, an editor and reporter with the tabloid weekly Zeta, was gunned down in broad daylight near downtown Tijuana in June. Francisco Arratia Saldierna, a columnist for four newspapers who wrote frequently about organized crime and corruption, died after being brutally beaten in the city of Matamoros, near the Texas border, in August.