Assailants fire gunshots at publisher’s home in central Mexico

On March 28, 2009, several gunshots were fired at the home of Juan Antonio Zavala Hernández, publisher of the weekly newspaper Mi Ciudad in the town of Romita in central Guanajuato state. There were no injuries, the journalist told CPJ. Zavala, who said he has been repeatedly threatened by the local mayor, said he believes the attack was in retaliation for his critical reporting on the government official.

Police are investigating nine bullet holes in Zavala’s garage door, according to local news reports. Witnesses said the vehicle used for the shooting matches an SUV owned by the mayor, Zavala told CPJ. The attack came at 1:30 a.m., when the Zavala family was at home.

Mi Ciudad, a two-person operation run from Zavala’s home, is the only consistent source for local Romita news, Zavala told CPJ. The journalist said the paper has been critical of local Mayor Felipe Durán Muñoz. Zavala told CPJ Mi Ciudad‘s coverage of the mayor had been critical since the paper’s founding almost three years before.

According to Zavala, on December 3, 2008, he received an anonymous call warning him to stop publishing lies if he did not want to be killed. Zavala said the mayor did not identify himself as the caller but his voice was clearly recognizable. Two days later, Zavala said, Durán kicked and shoved Mi Ciudad‘s reporter-photographer Carlos Durán Rangel (the two are not related) while on assignment. Zavala said the mayor injured the reporter, damaged his camera, and threatened to kill him.

The problems subsided until Mi Ciudad published a picture of the mayor allegedly drunk in public, in early March. Zavala said an anonymous citizen sent the photograph to the paper and that on March 18, an official city vehicle followed Zavala’s car bumper to bumper.

Repeated calls to Durán’s office for comment went unanswered.