Mexican weekly goes offline after cyberattack

New York, November 28, 2011–The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by reports of a cyberattack on Mexican weekly Ríodoce that forced its website offline on Friday. Ríodoce is one of the few publications to cover crime and drug trafficking in Mexico.

Executives at Ríodoce, based in the city of Culiacán, in Sinaloa state, told CPJ that on Friday, they received an email from a representative from their host server DreamHost that said the newspaper’s website had been the victim of a “large” distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attack. (A DDOS attack prevents a website from functioning by overloading its host server with external communications requests.) The email, which the newspaper provided to CPJ, also said that the attack had resulted in service disruption for other clients, and that because of the risk to its other customers, DreamHost was dropping Ríodoce from the shared server. Ríodoce has been offline since Friday. The paper’s executives told CPJ they were hoping to be hosted by another server by tomorrow.

On November 22, Javier Valdez Cárdenas, one of Ríodoce‘s founders, was awarded CPJ’s 2011 International Press Freedom Award. Both Valdez and Ríodoce director Ismael Bojórquez said they suspected the attack could be in reprisal for the newspaper’s reporting. Bojórquez told CPJ they planned to file a complaint with local authorities.

“This is a troubling development in the onslaught against independent journalism in Mexico,” said CPJ deputy director Robert Mahoney. “Authorities must thoroughly investigate the origins of this attack, bring the perpetrators to justice, and ensure that Ríodoce can continue to report without fear of reprisal.”

While independent news sites in other parts of the world have been targeted by DDOS attacks in the past, these attacks have been relatively uncommon in Mexico, where criminal groups have terrorized the local press into silence. In September 2009, unidentified assailants hurled a grenade into Ríodoce‘s facilities, causing substantial damage to the building but no injuries, CPJ research showed.