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Armed men attack newspaper offices; deteriorating conditions for journalists in Veracruz

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - Mexico City, 8 November 2011 - Early in the morning on 6 November 2011, a group of at least 10 armed men, some with their faces covered, attacked the offices of the "El Buen Tono" newspaper in the city of Córdoba, in Veracruz state. The incident resulted in significant damages to the building and equipment such that the paper was unable to publish its 6 November edition. None of the newspaper's employees were injured in the incident, which represents yet another in a long list of freedom of expression violations in Veracruz. In 2011 alone, four journalists have been killed, at least 13 have been forced to leave the state and one is missing. These incidents demonstrate the hostile environment confronting journalists, not to mention the pressures and intimidation tactics faced by electronic media and Internet users.

According to the newspaper's employees, the assailants entered the building just after midnight, when approximately 20 staff members were present. The armed men poured gasoline throughout the paper's editorial, design and advertising offices and then set them on fire.

The Veracruz state government dismissed suggestions that the fire was set by armed men because no shell casings or shrapnel from explosives were found. The paper's general director, Julio Fentanes, told ARTICLE 19, however, that the "El Buen Tono" employees saw the armed men enter the building and that a weapon clip was found at the scene.

ARTICLE 19 views this attack as an escalation in the level of violence against journalists in Veracruz, noting that it also demonstrates the lack of action by the authorities to safeguard freedom of expression.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Veracruz government to fulfill its duties and obligations and to investigate this incident, including the possibility of a link to the paper's reporting, without "pre-judging" the possible motives behind it. The organisation also urges the authorities to take into account the current security crisis and implement safety measures to protect journalists in Veracruz.

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