Violence against Press Reaches Record Numbers under AMLO

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In 2022, there were 696 attacks on journalists in Mexico — at least one attack on a journalist every 13 hours — majority of whom were working the political beat, according to the independent organization Article 19, which promotes freedom of expression and access to information throughout Mexico and Central America.

On Tuesday, March 28, Article 19 released a report titled “Voices against Indifference,” which detailed the “deteriorating condition of freedom of expression in Mexico” under the administration of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO).

The 696 recorded attacks on journalists in the country last year — along with 12 journalists murdered — “represented an unimaginable milestone in terms of human rights violations in general,” said Leopoldo Maldonado, regional director of Article 19.

“Last year has been the most violent year for journalism in Mexico, with 696 attacks and 12 deaths, and this represents an increase of 4.3 times the number of attacks registered during the fourth year of the government of former Mexican President Felipe Calderón and 1.6 times compared to that of his successor, Enrique Peña Nieto in 2016,” said Maldonado.

The 12 Mexican journalists murdered in 2022 were José Luis Gamboa, Margarito Martínez, Lourdes Maldonado, Roberto Toledo, Herber López Vásquez, Jorge Luis Camero, Juan Carlos Muñiz, Armando Linares, Luis Enrique Ramírez, Antonio de la Cruz, Alan González and Juan Arjón López.

Maldonado said that in addition to the 12 murdered journalists, at least nine other reporters in Mexico were victims of attacks that did not result in their death, unlike “other times in which the murderers achieved their ultimate goal, which was to silence the media,” but that these attacks were no less disturbing.

He also explained that although murder is the most extreme form of aggression against the press, there are other forms of intimidation and attacks against journalists in the country, which include “verbal attacks against them by political actors that ultimately manifests in physical attacks, intimidation or displacement from colleagues.”

“In the four years of the AMLO government, which touted a supposed ‘transformation,’ freedom of expression has not improved, and in most cases severe forms of censorship have worsened, coexisting with old authoritarian mechanisms that have not been eradicated,” Maldonado said. “No national or local political or ideological flag has been able to fully respect and guarantee the rights of the press, and on the contrary, they seek to undermine journalists through various open, hidden, crude and sophisticated methods.”

According to the Article 19 report, at least 42 percent of the documented attacks — 296 of them —  “were perpetrated directly by state actors.”

The report likewise detailed that in 2022, “López Obrador on at least 176 occasions (mostly during his daily morning press conferences) made stigmatizing comments against the media, journalists and even civil society organizations, of which 33 of those could be classified as direct attacks on the press.”

It didn’t help that López Obrador even championed a “special” segment during his press conferences, helmed by Ana Elizabeth García Vilchis, former web content coordinator for La Jornada de Oriente in Puebla. The segment — titled “Who’s Who of Media Lies of the Week” —according to García Vilchis herself, shortly after it was first launched in July of 2021, is purportedly “dedicated to dismantling the lies that are spread by journalists and the media” but has only proven to be another avenue to attack the press.

Coming on the heels of the Article 19 report is another report by Amnesty International (AI), which on Monday, March 27, said that “Mexico still has many pending human rights issues,” chief among them “the continued stigmatization by the government of feminists and human rights defenders, who protest against government inaction on gender-based violence and, in some states, security forces that violently repress women protesters.”

“Killings of journalists remained at record levels; many of the victims had been granted official protection measures. By the end of the year, more than 109,000 people were registered as missing and disappeared,” said the AI report.

“The militarization of public security has increased, and legislation cemented the involvement of the armed forces in public security tasks until 2028. The Mexican National Guard (GN) has used excessive force in several of its operations. A lack of transparency, accountability and access to information hindered access to truth, justice and reparations for victims of human rights violations and their families.”

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