Sunday marked the third attack on a branch of the El Norte newspaper in Mexico. Masked men broke into the Sierra Madre offices of the newspaper and proceeded to pour gasoline throughout the premises before igniting it. No one of the 15 people working there was injured and the blaze was quickly put out by firefighters.
This attack is the third made on independent newspaper outlets in Mexico during July. The Associated Press notes that the attackers who attempted to burn down the newspaper were not identified and none of them were caught.
Newspapers and journalists in Mexico face extremely dangerous and frightening working conditions. Cartels commonly threaten newspapers and journalists if the publications dare to unearth illegal activities linked to those very same cartels. More than 80 journalists have been killed throughout Mexico since 2000. Last month, Veracruz reporter Manuel Baez Chino went missing and was found killed a day later after he had been covering corruption and crime stories in his local area. Earlier this year, in May, four other media-related individuals were found murdered.
The highly dangerous working conditions for journalists often force newspapers to scale back on the local issues related to crime and cartels. A statement from El Manana newspaper after an attack on their offices earlier in July reflects the often uncertain terrain these publications work under. The quote, as reported by CNN, reads:
We ask for the public’s comprehension and will refrain, for as long as needed, from publishing any information related to the violent disputes our city and other regions of the country are suffering.
The response from the El Norte newspaper after the July 29 attack was somewhat different than El Manana’s. The group sent out a message to workers after the blaze had been contained, which stated:
With great respect and admiration we aim toward a different type of heroic action: one that is done by soldiers of freedom. Those who, with bravery, talent, compromise and discipline, not in a quick instant but in decades of battle, are able to improve the lives of others.
The publication plans to continue local coverage of the Monterrey area despite such massive threats to workers’ safety. CNN’s Nick Valencia points out that the continuation of local news coverage remains an essential tool in keeping cartels at bay, even when they pose such massive threats to freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
If you’re losing these beat reporters. If you’re losing these people with institutional knowledge of what’s going on in their cities and they’re not reporting what’s going on. This is information that Mexicans were getting that they just aren’t getting anymore.
Photo Credit: Mexico Map