OPINION | Journalists targeted in Mexico ahead of election


On December 15, 2022, Ciro Gómez Leyva, one of Mexico’s most prominent journalists, narrowly escaped death in an assassination attempt in Mexico City. Two men on motorcycles fired directly at the armored SUV that was being driven. If it weren’t for modern armored glass, the bullet would have definitely killed him.

In a country where the practice of independent journalism is often a death sentence, the execution of such a long-respected figure on the streets of the capital would have been a watershed moment. While the nation mourns the loss of an extraordinary journalist known for his courage and talent, no journalist can boast the national profile that Gomez Leyva has.

Mexico was lucky that Gomez Revilla survived the ordeal. But this narrow mistake should not obscure the toxic political dynamics that continue to put journalists at such risk at home.

Authorities have arrested 16 people and 13 have been charged in connection with the attempted attempt on Gomez Leyva’s life. However, the person responsible for ordering the hit remains unclear. “I have no idea who tried to kill me,” Gomez Leyva told me recently. “I have a lot of theories, but no single fact that points me in the right direction. I don’t know who did it, why they did it, or for what purpose.”

According to Article 19, an international organization that protects journalists, 163 journalists have been murdered in the country since 2000. In the past two years alone, 18 journalists have been killed, including local celebrities such as Tijuana’s Lourdes Maldonado, who personally sought protection. President Andres Manuel López Obrador.

But instead of quelling the alarming hostility toward journalism, Mexico’s president has further fanned the flames. Last year, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement calling on López Obrador’s government to end its “incessant verbal attacks on journalists.”

“(They) must stop before they lead to further violence against the press,” warned Jean-Albert Hutsen, CPJ Mexico representative. President López Obrador ignored such pleas.

On January 2, during his daily morning press conference, the Mexican president once again went after Gómez Leyva. Journalists like Gomez Leyva and López Obrador “make a lot of money, but they discredit their noble craft,” he said.

He then went further, gesturing that he was putting pressure on media owners critical of the government. ‘They claim they can’t handle Ciro [Gómez Leyva] Because he is “independent”. No one will buy that! ” López Obrador publicly named the owners of the radio and television stations that employ Gómez Leyva.

Gómez Leyva told me that López Obrador’s words, and his decision to call out media owners by name, clearly serve as a warning: “Either you control him or we control you.” He said that it should be understood. The president seeks to control media discourse by pressuring and threatening journalists and those who employ them in public press conferences.

“For five years, the president has used his power and government resources to insult and slander journalists, with the sole purpose of intimidating and corralling us,” Gómez Leyva said. “This is nothing less than a sustained and systematic attack on journalism.”

López Obrador shows no signs of slowing down. On Wednesday, he cited Carlos Loretto de Mora, another prominent journalist with a national readership who recently published an investigation into an apparent corrupt ring surrounding López Obrador’s sons. pursued. “I want to know how much money he makes,” López Obrador demanded. “I am sure of at least 1 million pesos (US$60,000) a month.”

This form of coercive action by those in power is both a hallmark of authoritarianism and an ominous omen for Mexican democracy, especially in an election year.

In June, the future of independent and critical journalism will be on the ballot. In a country rife with crime and corruption, Mexican voters should carefully consider the value of a free press.



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