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More journalists receive death threats following reporter's assassination in Durango

(CEPET/IFEX) - José Bladimir Antuna García, a reporter for the "El Tiempo" newspaper, has received several death threats and, on 28 April 2009, he was the target of an apparent assassination attempt in the city of Durango, Durango state, northern Mexico.

The most recent threat against the journalist was issued on 26 May, the same day that Eliseo Barrón Hernández, a reporter for the "La Opinión Milenio" newspaper, was found dead after having been kidnapped from his home the night before. On that day, Antuna García said, an unidentified individual called the "El Tiempo" offices and said, "Bladimir Antuna would be next". According to the journalist, who covers the police beat, he had on several occasions exchanged information about police corruption and organised crime with Barrón Hernández.

Antuna García said that in the last seven months he has received numerous calls on his mobile phone or at his workplace in which the caller warned him not to publish "delicate" information. At times, the caller identified himself as a member of Los Zetas, a group of hired assassins linked to the Gulf drug cartel. He added that one of the calls was made from inside the Gómez Palacio penitentiary in Durango.

On the morning of 28 April, as Antuna García was leaving his home to go to work, he was approached by a white van with tinted windows and no licence plates. An armed individual got out of the van. When the journalist realised that the gunman was aiming at him, he ran into his house and the shots hit the front of the home. After this incident, the journalist filed a complaint with the Durango State Public Prosecutor's Office (Procuraduría General de Justicia del Estado de Durango). He noted, however, that he has continued to receive threats.

Since Barrón Hernández's assassination, other journalists in the region bordering the states of Durango and Coahuila have also been threatened. On 27 May, during Barrón Hernández's funeral, six pieces of cloth with threats against journalists and army personnel appeared in Torreón, Coahuila. One of them was left in front of the Televisa Laguna television station's offices. The pieces of cloth were signed by the drug-trafficking group belonging to Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán.

One of the messages said, "We're here journalists. Ask Eliseo Barrón. 'El Chapo' and the Poniente cartel do not forgive. Be careful journalists and soldiers. Sincerely, 'El Chapo' and the Poniente cartel."

The managers of a local newspaper, who preferred not to have the name of their media outlet published, told CEPET that their reporters have received death threats and that several have begun to refrain from showing up for work as a result. In the meantime, they said that their media outlet has opted to reduce its coverage of information about organised crime.

The Coahuila State Attorney General's Office (Fiscalía General del Estado de Coahuila) has said that journalists and media outlet managers are welcome to put in requests for protective measures. "The individuals who feel they require police protection must submit a request," Fernando Olivas Jurado, an Attorney General's Office official, said. He added that he is confident that this type of incident will not happen again and that his office is working to that end.

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