MEXICO CITY – Five non-editorial employees of a newspaper in northern Mexico were kidnapped but released within a few hours, the company said in an editorial posted on its website Friday. It complained there is a lack of security for news workers in the violence-plagued region around the city of Torreon.
The newspaper Siglo de Torreon, in the state of Coahuila, said abductors took two people who operated its online services, two employees of the advertising department and one administrative employee. It said the workers were released early Friday, but that for security reasons, it would not give any further details on the incident.
Mexican newspapers and journalists have been subject to frequent attacks in areas where drug cartels are battling for control of key regions and seek to dictate news coverage. Torreon is a city where authorities say increasing violence is a product of a turf war between the Zetas and Sinaloa cartels.
An official at the Coahuila state prosecutor's office, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said authorities were investigating the kidnapping of Siglo de Torreon's workers but had no suspects. He said the five employees apparently were taken from different locations.
Siglo de Torreon's offices have been attacked by gunmen twice since 2009. No one was hurt in either incident, but the newspaper decided after the first shooting to stop identifying drug gangs in their stories and to end investigative journalism.
A press freedom group said the abduction of non-journalists was a new and worrisome trend and drug cartels seemed to be behind it.
Juan Carlos Romero, officer for freedom of expression in Mexico's chapter of the London-based Article 19 group, said it had received reports from news companies that drug-trafficking groups are looking to spread their threat by targeting all media employees. He said the news companies had chosen not to make the threats public.
"Before, you would kidnap a reporter of the crime beat, (or) an editor, and you would tell them what to publish," Romero said. "Nowadays, it's not necessary to take reporters. You target employees outside the editorial section, like in this case, and you can still dictate what to write to a news organization."
Siglo de Torreon acknowledged in its editorial that it was frightening to learn that not only journalists are in danger now, but anyone working for a media company.
"What happened Thursday night is alarming because it exposes a new threat for the media, because those kidnapped were not editorial employees," the newspaper said.