Mexican authorities are searching for a municipal police chief who is allegedly responsible for ordering the savage beating of a 24-year-old female reporter in the central state of Guanajuato last week.
Nicasio Aguirre Guerrero, head of the police department in the city of Silao, stands accused of hiring three men to assault local reporter Karla Silva at the offices of El Heraldo de León newspaper on September 4.
Two suspected culprits were arrested on September 11 and Guanajuato Attorney General Carlos Zamarripa Aguirre told the press there was substantial evidence indicating the police chief “orchestrated it and hired these people to carry out the attack.”
Having evaded arrest Thursday morning, Aguirre is now considered a fugitive from justice. Silao Mayor Solís Arzola is also being investigated and faces questioning over the attack.
Reporter left bloodied and bruised
Silva had been working at her desk at around 5:30 p.m. when three men armed with knives burst into her office and brutally beat her in the head, arms and legs for several minutes.
“After beating me they told me to tone down my articles,” she told Radio Formula. The men then left with her computer and cell phone.
Silva spent the next day in the hospital with cerebral edema and problems with her vision. Graphic photographs taken immediately after the incident show her blood-splattered face and a deep gash above her right eye.
The perpetrators first came looking for Silva earlier that morning. She was not present in the office at the time, and when she learned of their suspicious visit she called the municipal police department. The police reportedly promised to send two officers but they did not arrive in time to prevent the attack, which occurred several hours later.
Silva has since called for an investigation and expressed concern for the safety of her family, but bravely vowed not to abandon her profession. “I’m really sad that it’s come to this,” she said, “but lying in bed crying is not the solution. I’ll carry on reporting.”
Silva’s employers were quick to blame the local authorities, whom she had previously criticized in her articles.
El Heraldo de León noted it had “been critical of the municipal administration of Silao, which is characterized by its opacity and for not responding to its citizens’ demands for public services and especially security. Although the attack occurred a few blocks from City Hall and relatively close to the police headquarters, they were slow to arrive and never answered the phone calls for help.”
The newspaper’s editorial director, Carlos Martínez Vertti, also told press freedom watchdog Article 19 that Silao Mayor Solís Arzola had recently warned Silva “not to mess with him.”
Journalists demand protection
The incident has touched a nerve in Mexico, where 285 female journalists have been attacked or intimidated since January 2007, according to Article 19. In 132 of these cases the alleged perpetrator was a public official.
In total, 114 reporters have been killed in Mexico since 2000, while another 21 have disappeared, according to Mexican journalists association Fapermex.
As the photos of Silva’s bloodied face went viral on social media, hundreds of journalists and citizens across Mexico and Latin America left messages of support for her using the hashtags #TodosSomosKarlaSilva (We are all Karla Silva) and #PeriodistasxKarla (Journalists for Karla).
On the morning of September 9, around 100 journalists and photographers marched to Mayor Arzola’s office to demand answers. He denied any involvement and insisted that his administration would collaborate with the investigation.
The demonstrators also urged the Guanajuato State Congress to pass the proposed Law to Protect Human Rights Workers and Journalists. Mexico passed a federal law to protect reporters and human rights observers in June 2012 but it does not appear to have had the desired impact.