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It has been a bloody year for journalists in Mexico, with nine killed in 2006, according to Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) and Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF).

CJFE has written to the Mexican government expressing serious concern over the killings, the latest of which occurred on 8 December 2006 when armed men shot dead Raúl Marcial Pérez in the state of Oaxaca.

On that day, armed men burst into the offices of the newspaper "El Gráfico" in Juxtlahuaca, and opened fire on Marcial, who was killed instantly. María de Jesús, a lawyer who was talking with the journalist at the time, was wounded but her injuries are not life-threatening.

Marcial had worked for "El Gráfico" for 10 years and wrote a tri-weekly column called "El otro lado de la moneda" ("The other side of the coin"). He was highly critical of the Oaxaca state government, led by Ulíses Ruiz Ortiz, and had recently written about the violent clashes between demonstrators and police in Oaxaca which claimed the life of U.S. journalist Bradley Will.

Aside from the killings, many journalists have been kidnapped, threatened, physically assaulted, and legally harassed in the past year, says CJFE. In particular, journalists covering the protests in Oaxaca - in which demonstrators have called for the resignation of Ruiz - have been put at grave risk because of the decision by security forces to use firearms to disperse protestors.

CJFE has expressed concern that Oaxacan authorities have neither the capacity nor the will to carry out a thorough, impartial and prompt investigation of the actions which resulted in the death of Will and the wounding of seven journalists during the clashes in October. It says federal authorities should launch an inquiry into the actions.

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