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"Hora Cero" staff erect barricades at newspaper's facilities for fear of incursion after new threat

(CENCOS/IFEX) - The staff of "Hora Cero" newspaper, a bi-weekly newspaper based in the city of Reynosa, in Tamaulipas state, northern Mexico, have built barricades at the newspaper's entrance, after receiving information that a group of people intend to mob the facility in response to the newspaper's publication of information on the misuse of public funds by Reynosa mayor Francisco Javier García Cabeza de Vaca.

"Hora Cero" general director Héctor Hugo Jiménez told CENCOS that the precautionary measures were taken in order to impede the entrance into the building of anyone not connected to the newspaper, given that, on 7 June 2006, the same mayor had sent people to Corpo Radio Gape radio station facilities to shout insults about the station and positive comments about the mayor. Radio station manager Roció Cantú Galindo filed a criminal complaint in June of that year regarding the incident, saying that the mayor, who is a member of the conservative Christian Democrat party Partido de Acción Nacional (PAN), should be held responsible for anything negative that might happen to her or her family.

Given the mayor's 2006 actions against the Radio Gape, "Hora Cero" staff have erected barricades, made of discarded newspapers, ink barrels and newspaper rolls, to prevent a similar incident at the newspaper. They were particularly concerned, after they were informed on 10 June of new rumours that they were about to receive the same treatment as Radio Gape. The rumours were confirmed by town council staff.

The motive for the threats is believed to be the reports published in the newspaper in issues number 221, 222 and 223, the first of which was published on 11 May, criticising corruption in García Cabeza de Vaca's administration. Since then the newspaper has received several threatening telephone calls and a bomb threat, and its reporters have also been threatened. Jiménez added that the anonymous callers said, "Heriberto Deándar Robinson's mother can fuck herself, and Héctor Hugo Jiménez should be careful about what he's publishing," referring to the owner and information director, respectively.

Given the threats, the newspaper's managers wrote to Mexican President Felipe Calderón, and also contacted the National Human Rights Commission and the office of the special prosecutor for crimes against journalists of the Procurator General's Office (Fiscalía Especial para Delitos Contra Periodistas de la Procuraduría General de la República). They also filed a formal complaint on 12 May with the Public Ministry (Ministerio Público) in Mexico City, D.F., registered with the file number 09/FEADP/07 by Francisco Rivero Sánchez.

Jiménez says that despite the above actions the threats did not end, and another anonymous call was received on 18 June at 7:00 p.m. (local time).

Given the events, Jiménez asks the federal authorities to take action to put an end to the threats against "Hora Cero" and also to investigate the issue of the misuse of public funds in Reynosa's municipal administration.

CENCOS asks both the federal and the Tamaulipas state authorities to ensure the safety of the workers, reporters and managers of "Hora Cero" newspaper, and to conduct the appropriate investigations to ensure that freedom of expression is not limited, especially by public officials who have a duty to protect this constitutionally-guaranteed right.

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