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Mexico29 April 2008

Journalist’s home sprayed with bullets amid nationwide surge in attacks on the media

Reporters Without Borders today urged authorities in Oaxaca state, southern Mexico, to provide protection to Melchor López Rendón, head of Radio Mixteca, after his home was sprayed with bullets and called on the Special Court for Crimes Committed against Journalists to take tough measures against an upsurge of attacks on the media countrywide.

“The shots fired at the home of Melchor López Rendón in Santiago Juxtlahuaca are just the latest episode in a long series of threats against the director and staff of Radio Mixteca,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

“The powerlessness of the security forces is all the more serious because of the gravity of attacks against journalists in Oaxaca, a fact underlined by the murder of two staff members of the community radio La Voz que Rompe el Silencio (The voice that breaks the silence) on 7 April”.

“We urge state authorities to provide immediate protection to all the station’s employees and we also call on the Special Court for Crimes Committed against Journalists to act in line with its responsibility to end impunity in this southern state and other parts of the country”.

López Rendón was leaving Radio Mixteca in his car on the evening of 18 April when he became aware that he was being followed by a white Jeep Liberty truck. After trying to throw of his pursuers, the journalist hid and contacted the police.

“From where I was hiding, I could see the Jeep Liberty truck still turning in circles around the radio station, along with three others, a grey Nissan X-Terra, a white Ford Explorer and a white Jeep Grand Cherokee. This convinced me that it was me they were looking for,” López Rendón told Reporters without Borders.

The following morning, his wife phoned him to say that the front of their home had been riddled with bullets.

The head of Radio Mixteca said he thought the threats could come from elements within the Unified Triqui Liberation Movement (MULT), a group which had already warned him not to put out news on the murders of Teresa Bautista Flores and Felicitas Martínez, producers on La Voz que Rompe el Silencio who were shot dead in San Juan Copala, 30 kilometres away.

He said he also suspected the implication of some local politicians, unhappy with some of Radio Mixteca’s editorial stances. “Since we began broadcasting, on 23 April 2007, we have been the targets of threats, blackmail and repression,” he said.

Latest attacks on the press are not limited to Oaxaca state. The 16 April 2008 edition of El Cinco in Ciudad Victoria, in Tamaulipas, north-eastern Mexico, did not come out after three armed men burst into the printers and assaulted the manager. The handful of copies which made it to the newsstands were systematically bought up by mystery purchasers who paid over the odds for them.

The family of Martín Carcaño, a journalist on the group Noticias en Tiempo Real and contributor to the supplement “La Semana” of the daily El Sol de Zacatecas, in Zacatecas, central Mexico received phone threats on the evening of 14 April from a man who left the following message: “He [Martín Carcaño] should watch his tongue because he is too talkative. If not, we will take it out on his family”. The journalist said he thought the threats were linked to an article that appeared in La Semana, in which he criticised the management of state governor, Amalia García Medina.

On the same day, Silvia Otero, an employee on the national daily El Universal, received a telephone call from Omar Cerecedo, lawyer for Daniel Pérez Rojas, whose arrest in Guatemala for membership of a drug cartel had been reported by the journalist the previous day. The lawyer insulted him and advised him to “take care to say his last prayers”.

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