11/08/11- The office of a Veracruz-based newspaper that has only been in operation for one month was doused in gasoline and destroyed during an arson attack on Sunday, November 6. The staff of El Buen Tono, a daily paper operating out of Córdoba in the south-eastern state of Veracruz, was surprised early Sunday morning when fifteen armed men rushed the offices, first breaking windows, and then dousing the building with gasoline. The twenty staff members in the office fled to a nearby building as the office was burned. Ten liters of gasoline were found around the scene of the attack.
An editor of El Buen Tono, Julio Fentanes, described the attack to CNN México, stating, “They broke windows outside and inside the building. They came armed with all kinds of weapons, with pipes, with any number of things.” Veracruz Deputy Attorney General Enoch Maldonado stated that no injuries have been reported following the attack and the government could not corroborate the newspaper’s claims.
El Buen Tono staff members expressed outrage and confusion as to why they were targeted as they have not reported specifically on organized crime. “We are a critical newspaper that informs about what is happening in the city. … We haven’t published anything in particular, we haven’t offended anybody or insulted anybody,” Fentanes said. “We haven’t done any special investigation that has to do with organized crime. No one ever threatened us.” A number of news outlets, however, have speculated that this attack was based in political motives as El Buen Tono owner José Abella is a National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional) candidate for mayor of Córdoba and the publication has been critical of public officials. Reporters Without Borders agrees. “El Buen Tono recently published several articles accusing the mayor of Córdoba, Francisco Portilla Bonilla, of involvement in corruption and influence-peddling,” it argued. “It went so far as to demand the dismissal of the state’s head of public transportation, Carlos Demuner Pitol, because he did not have the academic qualifications for the job.”
The practice of Mexican news outlets refusing to report on organized crime has become commonplace as the threat of retaliation from cartel and gang members is real, and is now occurring without warning. In this year alone, Veracruz has seen three journalists murdered, leading Reporters Without Borders to call the state “the deadliest single state for the media” in a July report. Although the Calderón administration has promised federal protection for Mexican journalists, the reality of retaliation has silenced many daily newspapers. Mexico has also come under scrutiny from the United Nations and the Inter-American Human Rights Commission to safeguard its free media and journalists.