Smoke pours out from the front of the El Buen Tono offices. (Reuters)
Smoke pours out from the front of the El Buen Tono offices. (Reuters)

Newspaper offices set on fire in Mexico

New York, November 7, 2011–A group of unidentified gunmen stormed into the newsroom of the daily El Buen Tono in the state of Veracruz on Sunday, vandalized equipment, and set the premises on fire, according to local press reports.

Within a month of tackling politics and organized crime, El Buen Tono has fallen victim to this new phenomenon of direct attacks on newspapers,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s Americas senior program coordinator. “Mexican authorities must ensure that their investigation into this attack is thorough and brings the perpetrators to justice.”

After midnight on Sunday, at least a dozen armed men wearing masks entered the facilities of El Buen Tono in the central city of Córdoba, destroyed computers, doused the offices with gasoline, and set the building on fire, the local press reported. Around 20 employees who were inside the building at the time escaped unharmed, but the newsroom and the administrative and design offices were completely destroyed, news reports said. El Buen Tono, which was launched a month ago, covered politics, general news, and organized crime.

Veracruz Gov. Javier Duarte de Ochoa said state authorities have started an investigation into the attack. The newspaper was not able to publish either Sunday or today, but its director said the paper will continue to be printed, news reports said. An employee told CPJ today that he had called other employees to see if they were returning to work but nobody had responded.

Attacks on news media facilities represent one of the new tactics of organized crime, according to CPJ researchVanguardia, the oldest and largest newspaper in the city of Saltillo, was the target of a hand grenade attack in May. In February, gunmen attacked the facilities of two media companies in the city of Torreón, destroyed equipment, and killed a TV engineer. Last year, more than a dozen news facilities were attacked with either guns or explosives. These acts of violence are seen as an easy way for criminal gangs to pressure the press to not report on them, especially in areas where drug traffickers battle for territorial control, CPJ research shows.

The state of Veracruz has been wracked by open warfare between drug gangs fighting over turf and smuggling routes. Four local journalists have been killed and one gone missing so far this year. Many journalists have fled or gone into hiding, CPJ research shows. Drug-related violence makes Mexico one of the world’s most dangerous countries for the press, according to CPJ research.