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"Noroeste" newspaper facilities in Sinaloa attacked by armed men

(ARTICLE 19/CENCOS/IFEX) - On 1 September 2010, the "Noroeste" newspaper issued a statement saying that its facilities in Mazatlán, in the northeastern Mexican state of Sinaloa, were the target of an armed attack. The attack took place several hours after the newspaper's editorial staff received a threatening telephone call.

On the afternoon of 31 August, unidentified individuals who said they were members of an organised crime group made two telephone calls to the "Noroeste" editorial staff demanding that they publish certain information and saying that in three hours they would receive "news from them." "Noroeste" personnel told ARTICLE 19 and CENCOS that they refused to publish the information, saying that they could not do so without first confirming the veracity of the information.

The newspaper personnel said that soon after midnight on 1 September three people arrived at the "Noroeste" building in a car. Two of the individuals got out of the car and hung a banner in front of the building. They then began shooting at the building. More than 60 bullet casings were found at the scene. The message on the banner accused the federal government of protecting two men who have been accused of being drug-traffickers and it listed the assassinations that have taken place in the city.

In an interview with ARTICLE 19 and CENCOS, "Noroeste" managing editor Joel Díaz Fonseca said that since the beginning of 2010 the level of violence in Sinaloa has been on the rise, especially in Mazatlán, where the phenomenon of assassinations and messages from organised crime groups constitutes a new development. "We view these types of attacks on media outlets as the method these groups are choosing to make their demands known to the federal government," Díaz Fonseca said.

According to conclusions and recommendations provided by the Organisation of American States and the United Nations freedom of expression rapporteurs on 24 August, in Mexico "there are areas where journalists are subjected to intimidation tactics and are self-censoring. For this reason, it is very difficult for them to carry out investigations and publish information about organised crime, corruption, public safety and other similar issues, due to their vulnerability and the high level of risk involved.

In accordance with the rapporteurs' recommendations, ARTICLE 19 and CENCOS consider the creation of a national mechanism to protect journalists and human rights defenders to be of utmost importance.

In addition, ARTICLE 19 and CENCOS call on the authorities to fully investigate the attack on "Noroeste" and bring those responsible to justice.

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