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Mexico goes through one of the bloodiest years for the press

Mexico is heading for one of the bloodiest years for the press after the murder of five journalists in less than two months, a tragic saga that continues to grow due to impunity.

The most recent case occurred in the city of Salina Cruz (Oaxaca state, south), where Heber López Vázquez, 39, was shot on Thursday as he was returning home. Two suspected killers were arrested.

Director of the website Noticias Web, López had received threats at the end of 2019 that he linked to allegations of corruption against a local mayor, Balbina Flores, spokesperson in Mexico for Reporters Without Borders (RSF), reminded AFP.

Despite this, it was not part of an official program that provides protection to some 500 reporters.

“Days before (the murder) he had spread information about corruption in the municipality,” said Flores.

With López, there are five journalists killed in Mexico so far in 2022, according to RSF, compared to seven last year.

On January 23, Lourdes Maldonado, 67, who had a radio program on social networks, was murdered in Tijuana (Baja California, northwest). Three suspects were arrested.

His crime occurred the same week that photojournalist Margarito Martínez, a contributor to the prestigious weekly Zeta, was shot, also in Tijuana.

Added to these cases are the murders of Roberto Toledo, a contributor to the digital media Monitor, on January 31 in Zitácuaro (Michoacán, center), and José Luis Gamboa, on January 10 in the state of Veracruz (east).

rampant impunity

Some 150 journalists have been killed in Mexico since 2000, according to RSF, 102 of them during the governments of Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) and Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018), marked by the war against drug trafficking.

Another 29 cases have been registered in the government of leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador, which began in 2018. “This six-year term will be classified as one of the bloodiest” for the press, Flores predicts.

The president promised this Friday punishment for López’s murderers. “He who lives by the sword will die by the sword. Zero impunity (…), it is not the same as before, ”he assured in his daily conference.

The lack of sanctions seems to encourage the predators of the press in Mexico, where according to RSF 92% of these crimes go unpunished.

“If there had been forcefulness” in the action of the authority against the crimes of journalists, “we would not be adding” new victims, Juan Vázquez, spokesman for the organization Article 19, told AFP.

In his opinion, the Mexican State is failing to comply with its obligations in terms of protection and prevention of lethal attacks against journalists.

“In Mexico they kill them because it is cheap. Those who run the greatest risk are the journalists with their pen, with their computer, with their recorder, with the microphone, and in the end, those who run the least risk are those who pull the trigger,” Vázquez denounces.

Mexico, with 126 million inhabitants and plunged into a spiral of violence due to the fight against drugs, ranks 143rd, out of 180 countries, in RSF’s list of press freedom.

Vulnerability

In addition to state omissions and impunity, the majority of crimes “occur at the local level and involve small media outlets, very vulnerable like their journalists,” which are even unaware of the protection mechanisms, comments Flores.

Several reporters killed in recent years directed or collaborated with websites -sometimes Facebook pages- where they spread information that spilled over to local authorities, sometimes in collusion with criminal groups.

Faced with the difficulty of making this activity profitable, some communicators must alternate journalism with other jobs.

“In Mexico, journalism is very precarious” in economic terms, observes Flores, for whom not many manage to make a living from the job.

This situation sometimes leads authorities to quickly separate crimes from journalistic work and not investigate them as violations of press freedom.

The growing violence against reporters also occurs in a context of polarization between the government and a sector of the press, which López Obrador calls a “mercenary” and serving private interests that are enemies of his “transformation process.”

On Friday, while lamenting the murder of López, the president spread the high income that journalist Carlos Loret de Mola, one of his biggest critics, supposedly receives.

López Obrador usually takes advantage of his daily conferences to respond to complaints and questions from the press, although none of the journalists designated by the president have suffered physical attacks.

“There is a stigmatizing discourse that (…) does not contribute to this context of violence,” says Flores. The president “did not dedicate more time precisely to the murder of a journalist” but “to the attack” of reporters critical of his government, Vázquez points out in turn.

Source: Gestion