Broadcast offices attacked in Mexico; engineer killed

New York, February 11, 2011The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Wednesday’s violent attack against two media companies in the Mexican city of Torreón, Coahuila state, during which a TV engineer was shot to death and equipment was destroyed and stolen. 

“Once again the media are on the front lines of Mexico’s drug wars,” said Carlos Lauría, senior program coordinator for the Americas. “The Mexican federal government must take concrete steps to protect freedom of expression enshrined in the constitution.”

A group of armed individuals burst into the transmission facilities of Grupo Multimedios Laguna, according to CPJ interviews and local press reports. The assailants shot television engineer Rodolfo Ochoa Moreno, 27, as he was calling the police, while destroying and stealing equipment, said Juan Carlos Zuñiga, a TV host with the media group. The manager of nearby Radiorama Laguna, Heriberto Gallegos, said the men also stormed that station’s transmission facilities and damaged equipment.

Gallegos said the attack was intended to generate panic among the public in Torreón, a large city in north-central Mexico and a battleground for two competing organized crime cartels. “Both of them want to show their power. Both of them want to show the government cannot control them and the people must do what they say,” Gallegos said.

Grupo Multimedios has been targeted several times by drug cartels since 2009, CPJ research shows. Eliseo Barrón, a reporter and photographer for Torreón-based daily La Opinión, one of the company’s newspapers, was abducted and murdered that year. And, cameraman Jaime Canales was among other journalists kidnapped to force the company and another broadcaster to televise videos made by a cartel last July.

Zuñiga said Grupo Multimedios Laguna does not cover organized crime out of fear of reprisal from the cartels.

Drug-related violence has turned Mexico into one of the world’s most dangerous countries for the press, CPJ research shows. Ten journalists were killed in 2010, at least three in direct reprisal for their work. CPJ is investigating to determine whether the other seven deaths were related to the journalists’ work.