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IAPA protests attack on paper, calls on authorities to ensure safety

(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami, May 31,2011 - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today protested an attack on the plant of the Mexican newspaper Vanguardia and called on the government to "conduct a prompt investigation to prevent ongoing savage acts such as this that undermine press freedom" and to take steps to ensure the safety of the paper's staff.

On Sunday evening a group of unidentified persons threw a hand grenade at the newspaper's plant in Coahuila state, damaging the building. No members of the staff, who were still working there when the incident occurred at around 11:00 p.m., were injured.

IAPA President Gonzalo Marroquín, president of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Siglo 21, declared, "The authorities have an obligation to conduct a prompt investigation in order to prevent such savage acts from recurring." He added that if those responsible for the attack "are not punished under the full weight of the law, there is the risk that those who resort to violence achieve their objective of intimidating the media, causing them to resort to self-censorship, and press freedom and the public's right to be informed continue to be undermined."

Marroquín said what was needed was "for press freedom to be ensured and protected," and urged the authorities to take "swift action to safeguard the safety of all the members of Vanguardia's staff."

The newspaper, an independent and prestigious media outlet in northern Mexico, has for several years provided safety measures for its journalists due to its investigative reporting and exposure of organized crime and corruption.

There was no immediate indication of the motives for the attack, whether it was in response to reports published by the newspaper or a new incident of violence by criminal gangs to attract public attention.

In the city of Saltillo in January 2010 journalist Valentín Valdés Espinosa was killed after publishing reports on operations carried out against criminal organizations. His murder remains unpunished. Vanguardia has received previous threats after publishing certain reports and exposures.

A few months ago, following the arrest of a leader of one of the mafia cartels, several police officers were murdered and threats were received in the newsrooms of a number of media outlets in Saltillo and surrounding areas.
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