Mexican reporter who denounced local corruption attacked

Armed assailants beat Mexican newspaper reporter Pedro Sala García in his home at around 7 a.m. on February 10 in Emiliano Zapata, Tabasco state, according to the journalist and press reports.

In a phone call, Sala García, a correspondent for the regional daily Tabasco Hoy, told CPJ that he began that day by picking up the daily delivery of the newspaper to the town. In addition to reporting for the paper, Sala García is in charge of receiving the delivery of the newspapers to the town each day. After picking up the newspapers, he returned home to prepare breakfast for his two children before dropping them off at school. Sala García left the gate open and the front door unlocked, expecting the newspaper deliverymen to pick up that day’s edition, he told CPJ.

Instead, two armed men entered the house wearing motorcycle helmets to cover their faces. One man hit Sala García on the head with his pistol while the other assailant hit the journalist’s legs and feet. They told the journalist that they had orders to kill him, Sala García told CPJ.

His wife, Odilia Arcos López, who was present at the time of the attack, began to scream. One of the assailants hit her with his pistol and threatened to kill her if she did not stay quiet, according to Sala García and press reports.

The screams alerted the neighbors, and the men fled the house, according to a press account of the incident. Arcos López ran outside to get help, and Sala García was taken to the hospital, where he spent three days receiving treatment for his injuries, the journalist told CPJ, adding that he believed the assailants left him for dead.

Sala García, who also works as a correspondent for the daily El Criollo and as a freelance contributor for local radio stations La Z de Macuspana and Xezx Voz del Usumacinta, has reported on a variety of subjects, including crime and corruption.

Juan Carlos Montes de Oca, regional coordinator and editor of Tabasco Hoy, told CPJ in a telephone interview that Sala García had written a series of articles accusing local officials of corruption. On January 13, for example, Sala García published an article in Tabasco Hoy titled, “The cabinet in Zapata is recycled; Accusations that the ex-president controls town hall.”

Sala García told CPJ that he had received a number of death threats in messages to his Facebook account and in calls to his home prior to the attack. He said that he did not report the threats to police until after the attack, when authorities opened an investigation into the assault.

Sala García said he believes the attack was in retribution for his criticism of local authorities. He told CPJ that while he occasionally has written about individual crimes, he did not cover organized crime or drug trafficking.

Mexico’s Special Prosecutor’s Office for Crimes Against Free Expression has opened an investigation into the attack, Tabasco Hoy reported, and Sala García told CPJ that the Tabasco attorney general has provided him with protection since the attack. A representative from the Tabasco attorney general’s office told CPJ that she was unable to provide comment.