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Newspaper in Ciudad Juárez informed of bomb threat, only weeks after death threat against one of its journalists

(CEPET/IFEX) - Employees of the newspaper "Norte de Ciudad Juárez", based in the border city of Juárez in the state of Chuihuahua, were obliged to evacuate the daily's facilities on 19 February 2008, due to a bomb threat, CEPET has learned from its editor-in-chief, Guadalupe Salcido.

Salcido told CEPET that on 19 February firefighters arrived to the newspaper's facilities, located in the San Lorenzo neighbourhood, to inform the staff that the fire department had received a telephone call from "La Federación", a group of drug cartels operating in Juárez, saying that a bomb had been placed in the newspaper's building.

The call was later proved to be a false alarm, but staff and managers were shaken by the incident.

"We don't know what to think of this; we handle government-issued information on the subject of drug trafficking. We are back to work now. The newspaper has still not decided what action to take," said Salcido.

On 31 January, Carlos Huerta Muñoz, a night reporter for the same newspaper who covered the police beat, received a death threat from an individual who also identified himself as a member of "La Federación". After the threat, Huerta Muñoz left Mexico and the newspaper announced it would strictly limit its coverage on organised crime and continue to use only government-issued information, given the lack of decisive actions by the federal, state and municipal authorities to protect the newspaper and its staff (see IFEX alert of 4 February 2008).

Salcido said she does not know if the bomb threat was a joke, or in fact an action taken by organised crime with the intention of terrorising the newspaper's reporters so that they will stop covering police operations against drug traffickers fighting for control of the area, which borders El Paso, Texas.

"Norte de Ciudad Juárez" has covered police and military operations in Chihuahua, but according to Salcido, they have always based their coverage on government reports and are not attempting to cover that kind of news in more depth nor investigate it independently, in order to avoid putting their journalists at risk.

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