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Severed head left at door of "Tabasco Hoy" in Villahermosa, newspaper's managers call for action from president and Tabasco governor

(CENCOS/IFEX) - In the early hours of 26 May 2007, the severed head of Terencia Sastré Hidalgo, a councillor for El Cedro, a nearby town in the municipality of Nacajuca, was left at the door of "Tabasco Hoy" newspaper, in the city of Villahermosa, the capital of the state of Tabasco, located in southern Mexico.

According to Héctor Tapia, the newspaper's editorial director, the incident is aimed at intimidating not only that particular newspaper, but all media outlets, and clearly demonstrates the extreme vulnerability of the media in the current context. "Tabasco Hoy" managers described the incident as an attack on freedom of expression and have sent an open letter to President Felipe Calderón and Tabasco Governor Andrés Granier Melo, asking for measures to be taken to protect the newspaper's staff.

On 24 May, an armed commando had abducted Sastré Hidalgo from his home, located in El Cedro, where a month ago seven people accused of drug trafficking had been arrested. His headless body was later found with a note from his murderers saying: "this happened to me for making an anonymous call to the authorities."

At around 12:45 a.m. (local time) on 26 May, two Grand Cherokee pick-up trucks parked in front of the "Tabasco Hoy" building. According to guards José Reyes Chablé Ramírez and Juan Manuel Ramírez López, a man dressed in black got out of one of the vehicles, carrying a white cooler which he placed at the main door of the building, saying "they've sent you this." The guards immediately contacted the authorities, who discovered a head in the cooler. The area was then cordoned off by officers from the Mexican Army and the federal police (Policía Federal Preventiva).

These acts of intimidation constitute unequivocal evidence of the serious situation confronting free expression in Mexico. CENCOS and ARTICLE 19 call on Tabasco Governor Andrés Granier Melo and President Felipe Calderón to ensure that these attacks and threats against the media are investigated and halted.

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