Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about the ability of journalists to work freely in the southern state of Oaxaca after a shooting attack on 5 August in the city of Salina Cruz on Alberto Fernández Portilla, the director of the Semanario del Istmo local newspaper and producer of a news programme on radio XEKZ.
Fernández believes the attack was prompted by coverage of theft and corruption involving the state oil company Pemex. The newspaper’s deputy editor, Daniel Pérez Espinoza, and one of its journalists, Edwin Meneses Santiago, were recently threatened.
“Press freedom is in a bad way in Oaxaca,” the organisation said. “Social conflicts gave rise to a great deal of violence there last year, and a US journalist, Bradley Will, was killed during a demonstration. We urge the federal authorities to quickly shed light on the attack on Fernández.”
The attack occurred as Fernández arrived at his home in the early hours of 5 August. A gunman got out of a car, pointed his revolver at him and said: “You meddled in my boss’s business so I’m going to kill you.” The assailant then shot Fernández three times, hitting him in the abdomen, left leg and right arm. His children rushed out on hearing the shots and got him to hospital.
Fernández told Reporters Without Borders from hospital that he had two theories about who could have been behind the attack. He said he recently received telephone threats after covering corruption cases in which the local head of the Pemex labour union was allegedly involved. He also suspected a group of people who had been stealing oil from the Pemex pipelines.
The attack is currently being investigated by the Oaxaca prosecutor’s office that handles cases of violence against journalists, while the police are protecting Fernández and his home. Legislative elections were taking place on the day of the attack but the authorities have ruled out any connection.
Will, an American freelance cameraman, was fatally shot on 26 October 2006 in street clashes that broke out during demonstrations by left-wing groups opposed to Oaxaca governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. His murder has still not been solved. Misaél Sánchez Sarmiento, a journalist with the regional daily El Tiempo, narrowly survived a shooting attack on 17 June of this year after writing an article about Will’s murder.