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Mexico19 July 2005

Masked men armed with pickaxe handles evict embattled newspaper’s staff

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the forcible eviction of staff from the premises of the daily newspaper Noticias in the southern state of Oaxaca yesterday in a renewed use of violence by presumed members of the Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and Peasants (CROC), a trade union.

The eviction was carried out by a group of masked men armed with pickaxe handles, who forced the 31 staff members to abandon the newspaper building where they had been barricaded for more than a month in order to continue producing the newspaper in defiance of threats and violence by CROC members and Oaxaca state government agents.

Their removal means the newspaper, which is critical of the Oaxaca state government, will probably be forced to stop publishing, at least for the time being.

The assailants overran the building after surrounding it with their own barricades in order to prevent the press from approaching. Noticias owner Ismael San Martín said they inflicted considerable damage and threatened the journalists.

The police did not intervene at any moment, which suggests that the eviction was ordered by state governor Ulíses Ruiz Ortiz with the aim of silencing the newspaper. The governor is a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ruled Mexico for decades, until 2000.

The Noticias journalists had managed to continue working and producing the newspaper throughout the 31 days they were forced to remain inside the building by the CROC picket lines outside.

04.07.05 - New attack on vendors of Noticias

About 30 members of the Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and Peasants (CROC), along with plainclothes police, snatched nearly 200 copies of Noticias from people selling the paper at major street corners in Oaxaca city on 1 July. One vendor, Emmanuel Reyes José, resisted and was arrested by police who claimed he was selling pornographic magazines. He was later freed for lack of evidence.

30.05.06 - Noticias : Local authorities seize copies of the newspaper

While maintaining an occupation of the premises of Noticias by so-called "strikers" to prevent the newspaper being published, the local authorities moved onto a second stage on 29 June. After numerous battles with newspaper sellers and journalists, police seized 10,000 copies of the Oaxaca daily. Thirty-one journalists have been held hostage in their offices since 17 June.

28.06.05 - Thirty-one journalists held hostage in their office for eleven days by local authority henchmen

Reporters Without Borders has protested against a sit-in by "strikers" at the offices of local newspaper Noticias de Oaxaca in southern Mexico in which 31 journalists have been held hostage since 17 June 2005.

"The strike that has paralysed the daily Noticias for eleven days is the act of people external to the paper and is just a means used by the local authority to silence it," said Reporters Without Borders. The daily has previously suffered similar invasions.

The "strikers" should immediately leave the premises and allow the Noticias to resume its normal work, it said. "If the Oaxaca government does not comply with the recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) in this case, we will demand the intervention of the federal government," the press freedom organisation said in a letter to Oaxaca State governor, Ulises Ruíz Ortiz.

The occupation began with the arrival of a group of "strikers" of the Revolutionary Federation of Workers and Peasants (CROC) affiliated to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) that rules the state

When the newspaper refused to take part in the "strike", the group decided to occupy the premises and to hold the 31 journalists hostage. On 19 June another CROC group, including local police officers intercepted a distribution truck carrying copies of Noticias destined for the state capital, in Tuxtepec, Oaxaca State. They threatened the driver, stole the keys to the vehicle and seized several thousand copies which they sent to the state justice ministry. On 20 June, those occupying the paper cut the electricity and phones.

The CNDH immediately condemned the incident and called on the state governor to alert the state’s judicial authorities so that the journalists on Noticias can get back their workplace and the newspaper be compensated for the damage caused. In reply, PRI deputy David Aguilar, a leader of CROC, said he would agree to a dialogue with the management of Noticias if the newspaper ceased publication and the 31 journalists left the premises!

Noticias, which is highly critical of the Oaxaca state authorities, has previously suffered violent occupations, on 28 November and 1st December 2004. On 28 November, armed and hooded men burst into the printers causing the death of a 19-year-old man.

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