02/11/2013 – Around midnight on Thursday February 7, five employees of the newspaper El Siglo de Torreón, located in the state of Coahuila, were kidnapped for a period of about ten hours, after which they were released. In a communication via its website, El Siglo de Torreón provided minimal details regarding the employees and the abduction, due to safety concerns. The newspaper reported that two of the employees kidnapped were part of the newspaper’s online department, another two worked within advertising, and the remaining victim worked as an administrative employee for the company. It also alleged that although the victims were released in good health, some show evidence of being beaten. According to reports, one of the victims was captured outside of the company’s establishment, one was found at a convenience store, and the other victims were abducted at their home addresses. So far no suspects have been found. An anonymous official from the state prosecutor’s office reported that what is known so far is that the employees were taken from various locations.
According to Jorge Pérez Arellano, the editorial director of El Siglo de Durango, a subsidiary of El Siglo de Torreón, and president of the Association for Journalists and Communications Professionals (Asociación de Periodistas y Profesionales de la Communicación A.C.), similar occurrences have taken place against the media communications industry within the Laguna region, a region shared by Coahuila and Durango. Reports recall that in August 2009 and November 2011, the offices of El Siglo de Torreón were once again targeted by gunmen, although no clear advancements have been made within those investigations. The Associated Press, in particular, claims that the 2009 shooting was enough to discourage journalists at El Siglo de Torreón from directly naming drug cartel organizations, thus ending “investigative journalism.”
El Siglo de Coahuila expressed that the recent kidnappings serve as a reminder that anyone working within the communications industry is a target. CNN México reported that amid the violence, back in 2011, state and federal authorities launched an operation called Operación Laguna Segura (Secure Laguna) in response to an escalating turf war in the region between the Zetas and the Sinaloa drug cartels, cartels which are believed to be responsible for the violence in the region both past and present. Recent death threats against the Attorney General of the State of Durango (Procuraduría General de Justicia del Estado, PGJE), Sonia de la Garza, is just one of many examples highlighting the severity of the violence and lack of security in the region, putting not just newspaper employees at risk, but also Mexican politicians. Earlier this month, it was reported that the home of Rocio Rebollo, mayor of Gómez Palacio, was gunned down, although no one was injured in the attack.
According to the National Commission for Human Rights (La Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos CNDH), in the past year there were 184 registered cases of aggression against media workers within Mexico, including physical, stalking, threats, and forced displacement. The Committee to Protect Journalists reported that Mexico had the fourth highest number of journalists killed in 2012, only behind Syria, Somalia, and Pakistan.