Gunmen attack newspaper in Acapulco

New York, November 12, 2010–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned Wednesday’s shooting attack against Mexican newspaper El Sur in the port city of Acapulco, Guerrero state. Unidentified armed men fired at the paper and then stormed into the newsroom and threatened to set it on fire, according to local news reports and CPJ interviews.

Around 10:30 p.m., gunmen aboard two trucks fired at the paper’s premises, where 12 employees were at work, El Sur reported. Two armed men reportedly broke into the paper’s offices, and fired their guns inside the newsroom. No injuries were reported. The assailants cut off phone lines, and sprinkled gasoline around the newsroom. In an interview with national networks, Acapulco’s police chief estimated that about 40 bullet holes were found inside the paper’s building and on its facade.

The newspaper’s employees found refugee under their desks or in the building’s backrooms, El Sur said. El Sur Director Juan Angulo told the press that the assailants, who spent around seven minutes in the newsroom, did not specify a reason for the assault.

El Sur regularly covers local politics, violence, and organized crime, but there was no evidence to link the newspaper’s coverage of anything specific to the attack. International and local news reports described the paper as a harsh critic of Guerrero Governor Zeferino Torreblanca. Angulo said that Torreblanca is hostile toward the paper, and suggested that the governor was behind the attack, according to news reports. Guerrero’s Secretary of Government Israel Soberanis Nogueda said in press interviews that the governor had nothing to do with the attack and has always supported freedom of the press. A spokesman for the governor did not respond to a CPJ request for comment.

“Violent attacks against the Mexican media continue with alarming regularity,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas. “Without exhaustive investigations and successful prosecutions, journalists are left open to attacks and can be targeted with impunity. We call for a thorough investigation of this dangerous assault on El Sur.”

The press has been under increasing threat this year, with 10 journalists killed and a series of bombs aimed at Mexican news media offices. On August 27, a car bomb exploded at the headquarters of Mexico’s main network Televisa in Ciudad Victoria, the capital of Tamaulipas state. Unidentified men in a pickup hurled a grenade at Televisa’s offices in Monterrey, Nuevo León state on August 15, and the day before that assailants fired a grenade at Televisa’s offices in the border city of Matamoros, CPJ research shows.

On September 22, a CPJ delegation met with President Felipe Calderón in Mexico in a joint mission with the Inter American Press Association. During the meeting, Calderón pledged to reintroduce legislation that will federalize crimes against freedom of expression.