Mexican radio reporter survives murder attempt

New York, November 8, 2005—A Mexican radio reporter was seriously wounded on Sunday after being shot seven times at close range while walking his dog in a park in Loma Bonita, a town in Oaxaca state. The Committee to Protect Journalists is investigating whether the shooting was retaliation for the journalist’s work.

Benjamín Fernández González, who hosts the show “Poder Informativo” for Radio Hit, is known for his criticism of local authorities. Fernández is also a political activist, serving as local president of the Partido de Acción Nacional (PAN) party between 1999 and 2002.

The reporter was taking his daily walk with his dog around 5.30 p.m. when two unidentified assailants intercepted him, according to local press reports. One assailant fired nine shots, hitting the journalist seven times, press reports said. The assailants fled in a nondescript white car, Ilse Fernández, the journalist’s daughter, told CPJ.

The journalist was struck in the chest, abdomen, shoulder, and arms, Ilse Fernández said. She said that her father was out of danger today after sustaining injuries that were initially considered life-threatening. She said Fernández had not received threats before the attack and that he did not know who was responsible. Ilse Fernández said her father believes the attack may be related to his work on the radio.

After a series of deadly work-related attacks against journalists in Mexico’s northern states, CPJ asked President Vicente Fox to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate crimes against free expression. In a September meeting with CPJ officials in New York, Fox pledged to seek the appointment with Attorney General Daniel Cabeza de Vaca. Under CPJ’s proposal, a special prosecutor would monitor state investigations to determine whether an attack represented a violation of free expression.

CPJ research shows that northern Mexico, particularly the region along the U.S.-Mexican border, has become one of the most dangerous places in Latin America for journalists to do their jobs.

“In the months leading up to the presidential elections, it is critical that Mexican journalists can report the news without fear of reprisal,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We call on local authorities to conduct a thorough investigation in this case, and urge President Fox to move forward with the plan and ensure the appointment of a special prosecutor for crimes against free expression.”