Award-winning news site specializing in drug coverage in Mexico suffers cyber attack

A Nov. 25 cyber attack forced the weekly Mexican news site Ríodoce offline, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Ríodoce is one of the few publications that covers drug trafficking and organized crime in the northwestern city of Culiacán.

The directors received a message from their web host saying they had suffered a denial-of-service attack, which prevents legitimate users from accessing the website by overloading its host server with external communications requests, reported the magazine Proceso. Because the attack affected other clients too, the company DreamHost decided to stop hosting Ríodoce's site on their server.

"These kind of attacks are unusual in Mexico since criminal groups have terrorized the local press into silence," said CPJ in a statement. In September 2009, a grenade was thrown into the publication's offices, damaging the building but no one was hurt.

Ríodoce Director Ismael Bojórquez told Notimex that their Internet service that could be back online as soon as Nov. 29, if they can find a new web host. A journalist for the publication said that the attack could have been motivated by a report published last week about the trial against alleged drug trafficker Vicente Zambada Niebla, the presence of the Los Zetas cartel in the Sinaloan capital, and links between the state government and organized crime, according to Article 19.

Earlier this year, Ríodoce won Columbia University's Maria Moors Cabot prize for inter-American reporting. Last week, one of the group's founders, Javier Valdez received CPJ's 2011 International Press Freedom Award.