In Mexico, second grenade attack against northern newspaper

New York, May 17, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Wednesday’s grenade assault outside the offices of Cambio de Sonora, the second explosive attack in the last month against the Hermosillo-based daily.

At 3:35 p.m., a grenade exploded in Cambio de Sonora’s parking lot in Hermosillo, about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) northwest of Mexico City, according to press reports and CPJ interviews. No one was injured after Wednesday’s attack, but three cars suffered minor damages, the daily’s news director, Beatriz Espinoza, told CPJ. Witnesses saw three people in a gray pickup speeding away after the explosion, Espinoza said.

On the night of April 17, unidentified individuals in a moving vehicle tossed a grenade into Cambio de Sonora’s front garden, the daily’s general director, Roberto Gutiérrez, told CPJ in April. No one was injured during the explosion, which caused minor damages to the building’s facade.

Due to rising violence related to drug trafficking, Cambio de Sonora does not publish investigative reports on organized crime or the narcotics trade, Gutiérrez said today. Gutiérrez said he didn’t know what prompted either attack.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the Sonora state prosecutor’s office said that local authorities are investigating the attack. As a result of the latest attack Cambio de Sonora was given police protection, said Espinoza.

“These attacks threaten the constitutional right to a free press, and federal authorities need to intervene,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said.

In Mexico, an ongoing war between powerful drug cartels has intensified during the last three years. CPJ research shows that Mexican journalists who report on drug trafficking and organized crime face greater risks. Since 2000, six journalists have been murdered in direct reprisal for their work in Mexico, and CPJ is investigating the circumstances surrounding the slayings of 12 other journalists. In addition, five journalists have disappeared since 2005, three of them this year.

On May 9, a CPJ delegation met with the Mexican ambassador to the United States, Arturo Sarukhan Casamitjana. The delegation called on Mexico’s federal government to take concrete steps to protect press freedom and prosecute those responsible for crimes against the press.