CPJ condemns attacks, harassment of Mexican daily

New York, April 3, 2014–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns an attack early today on Adrián López Ortiz, general director of the Grupo Noroeste, a media group that owns the daily Noroeste, in the state of Sinaloa. CPJ is also alarmed by a series of threats and harassment against the paper in recent weeks and calls on authorities to bring those responsible to justice. 

“The Mexican authorities must thoroughly investigate these recent threats and attacks, including any possible involvement by local officials, and establish whether they are linked to Noroeste‘s reporting,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas. “The authorities must guarantee the safety of the daily’s staff and ensure they can continue to report on sensitive issues of public interest.”

Shortly after midnight today in Sinaloa, armed men surrounded López’ car with their vehicles as he was returning home from the airport, Noroeste reported. The men forced López to get out of his car, beat him, and robbed him. Before leaving in López’ vehicle, one of the assailants returned to where López was lying on the ground and shot him in the leg, the daily said. López sought treatment at a local hospital.

The state attorney general told reporters his office would open an investigation into the attack and would look into all possible motives, Noroeste reported.

The daily has suffered a series of threats, harassment, and attacks since its coverage of the capture in late February of the notorious head of the Sinaloa cartel, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, who was a fugitive for years. Noroeste said the paper’s offices received anonymous threatening phone calls shortly after government officials refused to comment for a story the daily was reporting that alleged that Sinaloa law enforcement officers were involved in protecting Guzmán before he was captured. On March 2, three Noroeste reporters were beaten by police and had their equipment confiscated while they were covering a protest by local residents in support of Guzmán, the daily said. Two police officers have been suspended in connection with their participation in the attack, according to the daily and news reports

Noroeste has also been targeted in the past. In September 2010, two cartel members opened fire with AK-47s on the reception desk at Noroeste‘s Mazatlán regional offices. The publication’s staff was directly threatened in a cartel message scrawled on a blanket at the scene of the crime.

Violence related to organized crime has made Mexico one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, according to CPJ research.