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Death threat to journalist in Chihuahua forces him into exile, his newspaper to limit coverage of organised crime

(CEPET/IFEX) - The newspaper "Norte de Ciudad Juárez", which circulates in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua, has announced that it will now limit its coverage of news about organised crime, given the lack of action by federal, state and municipal authorities to protect the newspaper's right to do its work. The decision was taken by the newspaper's managers after reporter Carlos Huerta Muñoz received a death threat on the night of 30 January 2008 from an individual who identified himself as a member of "La Federación", an organisation grouping several of Mexico's drug cartels.

"There's no way that the safety of workers at this media outlet is going to be risked; only information provided by the authorities through official press releases will now be published," said the newspaper's 31 January editorial.

The newspaper's information chief, Guadalupe Salcido, told CEPET that the journalist and his family had been taken out of the country for their own safety. Salcido explained that Huerta Muñoz, who covered the police beat, received the death threat on hi personal cell phone; it had been made from another cell phone from Sonora, a state bordering Chihuahua. The caller also told him that all of the media outlets in the area "were being manipulated." The call lasted almost a minute. Salcido added that other local media outlets, such as "Diario de Juárez" newspaper and Canal 44 television station, had also received threats recently.

The office of the national attorney general is investigating the incident and was informed of the cell phone number that appeared in the caller identifier of the journalist's cell phone.

Although CEPET recognizes that resorting to self-censorship is a legitimate step for media outlets to take to protect their reporters and editors, it is concerned that society's right to be informed is being violated.

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