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Agents of the Federal Police patrol in Baja California Sur state, Mexico, on March 12, 2018. On January 29, 2019, journalist Martín Valtierra García was beaten by two unknown assailants outside his home in Comondù, Baja California Sur. (Daniel Slim/AFP)

Mexican reporter assaulted with baseball bats in Baja California Sur

January 31, 2019 2:48 PM ET

Mexico City, January 31, 2019--Mexican authorities should immediately undertake a credible and thorough investigation into an assault on January 29 against journalist Martín Valtierra García and guarantee his safety, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Valtierra was beaten by two unknown assailants outside his home in Comondù, in the northern Mexican state of Baja California Sur, the journalist told CPJ.

It was the second violent attack on a journalist in the state in a week after reporter Rafael Murúa Manríquez of Radiokoshana FM was found murdered near the Baja California Sur town of Santa Rosalía on January 22, according to CPJ research.

"The cowardly attack on Martín Valtierra is disturbing in isolation, but even more alarming considering it comes on the heels of the murder of another journalist in Baja California Sur," said CPJ's Mexico Representative Jan-Albert Hootsen. "In the context of increasing violence, state authorities must act swiftly and take the appropriate actions to guarantee journalists can do their job without fear of attacks."

Valtierra is the editor and founder of news website Contrastes de Comundú, which covers news throughout Baja California Sur.

In a video posted on social media by several news sources, taken from a nearby security camera, the journalist can be seen stepping out of his car to open the front door of his home when two men step out of a second car. They quickly approach Valtierra and attack him with baseball bats, after which they enter their vehicle and flee the scene. Valtierra confirmed the authenticity of the video with CPJ.

"I wasn't able to see their faces and they didn't say anything. I heard a noise, turned around, and they were on top of me," Valtierra told CPJ in a telephone conversation yesterday. He said that he suffered a wound on his head and that he fractured his right arm while trying to protect himself from the blows.

The reporter told CPJ that he went to a hospital shortly after the attack, and reported the crime to state authorities while receiving treatment there.

Valtierra added that, although he had not received any direct threats, a colleague warned him in November that his reporting had angered officials in the Comondù municipal government. He told CPJ that he did not report this information at the time.

On January 8, Valtierra wrote a column critical of Comondù Mayor José Walter Valenzuela. Valtierra told CPJ that he had previously accused the municipal government of nepotism and corruption.

The Comondù municipal government did not respond to multiple phone calls by CPJ seeking comment.

In a WhatsApp conversation on January 29, Marina Valtierra (no relation to Martín), a spokesperson for the Baja California Sur state prosecutor's office, told CPJ that her office was aware of the attack, but was unable to provide more information at the time. Baja California Sur Governor Carlos Mendoza condemned the attack later that day in a tweet, in which he confirmed that the prosecutor's office has opened an investigation.

An official at the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which operates under the auspices of the federal Secretariat of the Interior and provides journalists with protective measures, told CPJ on January 29 that the office was in touch with Valtierra shortly after the attack. The official confirmed that the reporter was in the process of being incorporated into a protection scheme, but was unable to provide further details. The official asked to remain anonymous, as they were not authorized to discuss the situation.

Murúa was under a protective order by the federal mechanism at the time of his murder on January 22.

Mexico is the most dangerous country in the Western Hemisphere for journalists. At least four reporters were killed in Mexico in direct reprisal for their work in 2018, according to CPJ research. CPJ is also investigating the motives of a further six killings of journalists in the country that year.

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