Escalation in attacks, terror against journalists in Mexico
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Mexican police to thoroughly investigate this week’s shooting attack on the administrator of two Facebook local news pages in Acapulco who is now hospitalised in a serious condition, and the video received by a TV channel presenter in Mexico City in which masked gunmen threatened to kill him.
These two shocking episodes are indicative of the extremely worrying climate of violence and fear in which the media are now working in Mexico.
In Mexico City, Canal 6 TV presenter Carlos Jiménez received a video on 4 July in which two masked gunmen threatened to kill him, showing him the cardboard box they planned to use to send his remains to his family. Jiménez hosts a show called “C4 En Alerta” that is about crime and violence in the Mexican capital.
In Acapulco, the largest city in the southwestern state of Guerrero, local reporter Alan Castro Abarca was attacked by gunmen while driving though the district of Morelos on the night of 3 July, sustaining six gunshots wounds, including in the neck and a hand. He is now in a serious but stable condition in hospital, where he is receiving police protection.
Aged 38, Castro has been a journalist for the past ten years, following in the steps of his father, a newspaper reporter. The son runs two local news pages on Facebook called Contactotv Guerrero and La Ultima Linea Noticias, each of which has more than 10,000 followers.
For the time being, the police seem to be working on the assumption that Castro was the victim of a criminal attack unrelated to his journalism, but the attack’s modus operandi recalls those used in other recent attacks on journalists in the region. He is the fourth reporter to be the target of a shooting in Guerrero state since the start of May. Including Castro’s, three of these shootings have been in Acapulco.
“The use of terror to intimidate journalistic work is unacceptable. Alan Castro Abarca has had a close brush with death and, for the time being, his assailants are still at large. In this attack, as in Carlos Jiménez’s death threat video, the investigators must seriously consider the hypothesis that the motive was linked to the victim’s journalism, and they must identify the attackers as quickly as possible. The resurgence of armed violence targeting journalists in Acapulco – three cases in just three months – should also make the federal and Guerrero state authorities appreciate the urgency of putting protective measures in place to guarantee journalists’ safety.”
The recent shooting victims in Guerrero state include Gerardo Torres Rentería, who was working as a cameraman for Televisa and Telemundo and was one of the founding members of the local branch TV Azteca. He was shot dead in his Acapulco home on 11 May.
Pablo Salgado, a radio show host who had changed residence after being repeatedly threatened by organised crime, was gunned down at the wheel of his car on 2 June in Iguala, in the north of the state. José Carlos González Herrera, who ran a local news and opinion page on Facebook called Opinión Ciudadana, was pursued and killed in a hail of bullets while driving through downtown Acapulco on 15 June.
As with the Castro case, none of those responsible for these three murders has been identified. Although no formal link has so been established with the victims’ journalistic activities, these unsolved attacks have served to fuel the climate of fear in which journalists work in Mexico.
Nearly 150 journalists have been killed since 2000 in Mexico, which is ranked 128th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2023 World Press Freedom Index.