Reporters Without Borders today strongly condemned a shooting attack by hooded gunmen yesterday on the Oaxaca-based daily Noticias, Voz e Imagen de Oaxaca, in which two employees were seriously injured. The newspaper has been the target of threats and intimidation linked to its independent stance and criticism of this southern state’s government since 2004.
“We deplore the harassment and attacks on this newspaper that have gone on for nearly two years without any investigation being carried out,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Press freedom urgently needs to be guaranteed in Oaxaca, and we therefore demand immediate federal intervention so that those responsible for this attack can be punished. There is no justification for vandalizing a newspaper and, even less so, for injuring employees.”
In yesterday’s attack, employees reported that two hooded gunmen burst into the newspaper shouting that they were looking for the owner and publisher, Ericel Gómez Nucamendi. They then fired at the ceiling and equipment, injuring employees Adrían Cortes and Isabel Cruz, who was hospitalized with a gunshot injury to the chest that will need an operation. Doctors said her condition was not critical, however.
A few hours prior to the raid on the newspaper, hooded individuals burst into the studios of the university radio station, Radio Universidad de Oaxaca, pouring acid over the consoles to prevent broadcasting.
The newspaper’s editor, Ismael Sanmartín Hernández, filed a complaint, directly accusing Oaxaca state governor Ulises Ruiz and a former aide, Jorge Franco Vargas, of ordering the attack in reprisal for its criticism of the state government. He said the police promised to investigate but so far no one has come to his office to ask him any questions about the attack.
Sanmartín said he thought the attack was above all linked to the newspaper’s front-page coverage of a local campaign for the governor’s resignation. The governor is a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ruled Mexico for decades.
Nucamendi described his newspaper as a “social thermometer” of the situation in the state, contrasting it with the other media which, he said, were for the most part state-owned and under the governor’s control.
Noticias, Voz e Imagen de Oaxaca was previously the target of violence a year ago. Members of CROC, a group that supports the local government, stormed into the newspaper on 17 June 2005 calling on employees to support a “strike.” When the employees refused, the intruders sealed off the premises and held 31 of them hostage inside. Two days later, one of the newspaper’s delivery trucks was intercepted by another group of CROC activists, including local policemen, and thousands of copies were seized. Three days after that, the protesters cut off the newspaper’s phones and power supply.
The first case of violence against the newspaper was on 24 November 2004, when hooded gunmen forced their way into the area that houses the presses and caused the death of a 19-year-old man.