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Assailants storm home of renowned Mexican investigative journalist

Mexico's response to an armed attack on the home of one of its most-esteemed investigative journalists will indicate how seriously the country's government takes journalist safety, says the International Press Institute (IPI).

According to reports, a group of approximately 10 armed assailants stormed the residence of Anabel Hernández in Mexico State on Dec. 21, briefly seizing a bodyguard assigned to her by the Mexico City government.

Hernández – whose 2010 book “Los señores del narco”, published in English as “Narcoland”, revealed connections between Mexico's political establishment and the drug cartels ravaging the country – was not home at the time. Mexican media quoted neighbours as saying that group members first identified themselves as belonging to the Zetas drug cartel, but later claimed to be federal agents carrying out an operation.

“The Mexican federal government's reaction to this incident will be a bellwether for how seriously it will take the threat to press freedom in Mexico in 2014,” IPI Press Freedom Manager Barbara Trionfi said. “One of Mexico's most-renowned investigative journalists, Anabel Hernández has spent her career bringing the public highly relevant information about the activities of those in power. That she must live under constant police protection is bad enough; for her home to be assaulted in this way is simply unacceptable.”

Trionfi noted that during an IPI press freedom mission to Mexico in February 2013, conducted jointly with the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), Mexican federal officials – including the special prosecutor for crimes against freedom of expression and the ministers responsible for the federal journalist safety program – emphasised that they were committed to improving conditions for the country's journalists. Fifty-two journalists have been killed in Mexico since 2006, according to IPI's Death Watch.

Hope for such an improvement has largely focused on two new – or newly empowered – institutional measures: the Office of the Federal Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE) and a national journalist safety program under the auspices of the federal Ministry of the Interior.

“The Mexican federal government has a long way to go to prove wrong sceptics who see these initiatives as nothing more than lip-service to national and international criticism over its handling of the country's journalist-safety crisis,” Trionfi said. “In 2014, the government should start by conducting a swift and conclusive investigation into the recent attack on the home of Anabel Hernández that brings those responsible to justice.”

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