November 17, 2011

Lic. Felipe De Jesús Calderón Hinojosa
Presidente de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos
Residencia Oficial de los Pinos Casa Miguel Alemán
Col. San Miguel Chapultepec, C.P. 11850, DISTRITO FEDERAL, México
Fax: (+ 52 55) 5093 4901/ 5277 2376
Lic. Marisela Morales Ibáñez
Procuradora General de la República
Av. Paseo de Reforma No. 211-213, Piso 16
Col. Cuauhtémoc, Defegacion Cuauhtémoc
México D.F. C.P. 06500
Fax: + 52 55 53 46 0908

Dr Gustavo Salas Chávez
Fiscal Especial para la Atención de Delitos Cometidos contra la Libertad de Expresión (FEADLE)

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,500 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to defending freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our concern regarding the recent attack on the offices of the newspaper El Siglo de Torreón.

According to our information, a group of at least three men fired 20 or more shots from AK-47 automatic rifles at the offices of the Mexican newspaper El Siglo de Torreón, based in Coahuila, on November 15, 2011. They damaged the outer façade of the offices, and a car outside was also set on fire. The attack is the second of its kind in 10 days, bearing strong similarities to the attack on the offices of El Buen Tono in Veracruz state on November 6, 2011.

According to editor Javier Garza, the staff had not received any threats before the attack. Garza claimed that he could not think of any article that may have triggered such an assault, as the reporters of El Siglo de Torreón practice self-censorship when covering organized crime. Reporters do not name the groups involved in violence, and as an extra precaution, the newspaper has also removed bylines identifying reporters from its articles.
Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to work as a journalist. In the last five years, 36 print journalists have been murdered in Mexico, and most of the deaths are connected to the writers’ work. The recent attack on El Siglo de Torreón is the tenth attack on media facilities in Coahuila since 2009, and the second attack on El Siglo de Torreón. The first attack on the newspaper’s offices took place on August 18, 2009, where unidentified individuals fired shots at the building’s main entrance. The attack was not investigated and the perpetrators have not been punished.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned that the attack on the offices of El Siglo de Torreón indicates an ongoing intolerance of journalists and a worsening climate of impunity in Mexico. We therefore call for an investigation into the attack on the newspaper, and reiterate our call on President Felipe Calderón to fulfill promises to make crimes against journalists a federal offense by amending the Constitution so that federal authorities have the power to investigate, prosecute, and punish such crimes, and for federal authorities to immediately implement the journalist protection mechanisms it promised in November 2010.

Thank you for your attention to this critical matter.

Hannah Pakula
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: Ambassador Arturo Sarukhán
Mexican Ambassador to the United States
Embassy of Mexico
1911 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20006
Fax: (202) 728-1698

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