Publisher of firebombed newspaper suspects retaliation
MISSISSIPPI–A Mississippi weekly newspaper known for its investigations and battles with local officials was firebombed in late January, causing more than $100,000 worth of damage to the newsroom.
Charles Tisdale, publisher of The Jackson Advocate, said the firebomb, which reportedly left the newsroom a charred shell, was the twenty-first attack on the newspaper since he took over in the late 1970s. An anonymous caller threatened to kill him prior to the bombing, he said.
The staff of the Advocate took what was left of their computers and is working out of Tisdale’s home, he said.
No progress has been made in discovering who threw two bombs into the newspaper, Tisdale said, but he suspects it is a retaliation against the Advocate for several articles and a lawsuit it filed.
The Advocate has covered controversial stories for years, Tisdale said. Stories have criticized public officials, including the city’s mayor and city councilmembers, particularly their voting records, he said. The Advocate has also reported on a private group that Tisdale claims is trying to control the city’s funds and resources. The paper also reported on drug smuggling at a city facility, Tisdale said.
“We will continue to attack illegal operations by groups and members of our city council,” he said.
Although the Advocate describes itself as “The Voice of Black Mississippians,” Tisdale said he does not suspect racial motivations in the recent bombing.
“This is not a black and white issue,” Tisdale said. “It is an issue of integrity.”
But U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) told The Associated Press the firebombing should be investigated as a hate crime and he has requested a probe by the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and U.S. Attorney Brad Pigott.