Deadly month for journalists in Mexico

As Mexico becomes more hostile than ever for media personnel, with three murders of journalists and two attempted murders in March alone, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) sounds the alarm yet again and urges President Enrique Peña Nieto to find a lasting solution to this tragic situation.

In response to the past month’s surge in violence, RSF joins the Mexican media in urging the government to take decisive measures to end the deadly spiral.

In one of the latest attacks, gunmen burst into freelance journalist Julio Omar Gómez’s home in the city of Cabo San Lucas, in the northwestern state of Baja California Sur, on 28 March. Gómez and his family escaped unhurt but his bodyguard fought with his assailants and was killed.

Gómez has been receiving protection under the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Journalists since last December, after his home was the target of an arson attack.

Until last year, he was the director of the news website 911 Noticias, in which he often condemned abuses by local officials, corruption and drug trafficking, which is particularly entrenched in this Mexican state. He had recently suspended his journalistic activities after being the target of several previous attacks, including the one on his home.

We reiterate the request made to the Federal Mechanism’s members to urgently reinforce the security measures for Julio Omar Gómez,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of RSF’s Latin America bureau.

According to information relayed by the federal authorities, Gómez has temporarily left the region as a safety measure.

On 29 March, the day after the attack on Gómez, Armando Arrieta Granados, the managing editor of the regional newspaper La Opinión, was the victim of a murder attempt in Poza Rica, in the eastern state of Veracruz.

According to the information obtained by RSF, gunmen shot and wounded Arrieta as he was leaving work and he is now in a critical condition in hospital. He is a veteran journalist who has spent most of his 28-year career at La Opinión.

The newspaper’s director, Raúl Gibb Guerrero, was gunned down outside his home in April 2005. He is one of a total of 20 journalists to have been killed in the state of Veracruz since 2000.

This climate of terror for Mexico’s journalists cannot go on,” Colombié added. “Organized crime and corruption are making it impossible for journalists to work and are condemning them to censorship and silence. It is up to the federal authorities to systematically address this problem, to reinforce the protection mechanisms already in effect and to emphasize the fundamental role that the media must play in a democratic country.

This week’s murder attempts came just days after Miroslava Breach, a 54-year-old reporter for the Norte de Juárez and La Jornada newspapers, was killed in the northern state of Chihuahua on 23 March. She was shot several times in her car and died while being rushed to hospital.

Breach covered organized crime and corruption, and had just written a story about an armed conflict between the two leaders of a criminal group linked to the Juárez Cartel.

She was the third journalist to be murdered in Mexico since the start of the year, following Ricardo Monlui, gunned down on 19 March in Yanga, a locality just outside Córdoba, in Veracruz state, and Cecilio Pineda Birto, gunned down on 2 March in Ciudad Altamirano, in the southwestern state of Guerrero.

Mexico is ranked 149th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.

In a report published on 2 February, entitled “Veracruz: journalists and the state of fear,” RSF examined the difficulties of working as a journalist in Mexico and proposed a series of recommendations to the federal and local authorities for ending the spiral of violence.

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Updated on 31.03.2017