MEXICO CITY – Around 11 p.m. last Thursday, one of Mexico’s most famous news hosts was driving home from work through his country house in the capital when gunmen Ride the motorbike to stop and start shooting at him. They crashed into his car several times before taking off.
The anchorman, Ciro Gómez Leyva, escaped unharmed, apparently being saved by bulletproof glass windows that had withstood multiple frontal shots.
“Someone wants to kill me,” Gómez Leyva said on his newsletter the next day. “I do not know why. I do not know anyone.”
No one knows who committed the crime or the motives — but such a blatant attack on a prominent journalist sent a clear message to the national media: No one is safe.
Gómez Leyva is a household name, the most watched radio and news presenter in the country. However, his car was shot on a tree-lined street in an affluent part of Mexico City, where killings of journalists are relatively rare.
In a series of columnists and in conversations among colleagues, the Mexican press began to consider the possibility that prominence, once seen as a shield against violence, might no longer be appreciated. much more protection.
“You attack someone as visible and important as Ciro because the cost of doing so is so low,” said Salvador Camarena, a columnist journalist based in Mexico City, using the name Gómez. Leyva. “That message reached every journalist in Mexico, and it was clearly terrifying.”
Much of the outrage over the attack was directed at President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has had an aggressive relationship with the media since taking office in 2018, using daily hour-long press conferences to defame journalists who criticized him.
Since the beginning of his term, Mr. López Obrador has weaponized his daily press conferences to lash out at journalists by name, put them on the big screen and host a weekly segment. titled “Who’s a Liar,” aimed at exposing alleged falsehoods published about his administration in the media.
This week, on national television, the president expressed “solidarity” with Gómez Leyva — but also raised the possibility that the attack was staged and was in fact an attempt to destabilize for the government.
Mr. López Obrador said he could not “ignore” the possibility that the attack was planned by “someone who did it to influence us.”
The president’s response has drawn backlash from prominent media personalities, who in a letter posted Wednesday allege he has created a hostile environment for reporters by repeatedly smearing slander the press.
The letter, signed by 180 journalists, reads: “The reality is that all expressions of hatred towards journalists are cherished, born and spread in the National Palace. “If President López Obrador does not control his anger towards critical journalists, the country will enter an even more bloody phase.”
The president’s confrontational response has raised growing doubts about whether the government can be trusted to protect an endangered group of journalists or bring to justice in one of the attacks on homes. most famous newspaper in recent memory.
“In light of this Mexican leader’s attacks, can the government conduct an independent investigation?” Gómez Leyva said in a WhatsApp message. “I wouldn’t say more than that.”
Mexico has long been one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, and by various measures, 2022 is one of the deadliest years for journalism there in decades. .
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a nonprofit that protects the rights of journalists around the world, three journalists were murdered in direct retaliation for their work this year, and 10 others. killed in cases that are still under investigation.
Only Ukraine, a war zone, has had more journalists killed this year.
The murdered media workers are among the more obvious victims of the carnage that has ravaged Mexico, despite the president’s promise to bring peace to the country when he took office four years ago.
Alfonso Margarito Martínez EsquivelThe 49-year-old, a freelance crime photographer, was shot dead outside his home in Tijuana in January.
In February, Heber López was killed a day after he published an article accusing a local official of corruption. The following month, the gunmen were killed Armando Linares Lópezeditor of a violent Michoacan state news website, allegedly shot him at least eight times.
The Committee to Protect Journalists has not been able to conclusively confirm that the others killed were the target of their work. “In many cases, it’s just the general deteriorating security situation in the country,” said Jan-Albert Hootsen, the group’s Mexican representative.
Mr. López Obrador has at times acted quickly in response to attacks on members of the press. When news anchor Azucena Uresti received a direct threat from one of the most powerful gangs in the country last year, López Obrador was quick to announce that he had arranged for the federal government to protect her. .
But the president hasn’t made major policy changes to make the country safer for media people in general, Hootsen said, and he’s often focused on downplaying the issue.
Mr Hootsen said: “The common thread in how he responds to attacks against journalists is to minimize the damage to his reputation.
After the attack on Gómez Leyva, Mexico City officials began investigating the crime, and the president promised to find the root of it.
But Mr. Lopez Obrador also continued to name and humiliate specific journalists he disliked, and questioned the credibility of independent journalism in general. He has not announced any new measures to protect reporters.
“What if this was one of the hosts at ABC, CBS, Fox News, CNN or MSNBC? It will be an important international news story and it will demand immediate action from the government,” said Jorge Ramos, Univision’s program manager and frequent target of his criticism. López Obrador, said. “In Mexico, absolutely nothing happens.”
It remains unclear why Gómez Leyva was targeted. A prominent media executiveamong others, suggested on social media that it could be related to a segment the presenter ran two days before the shooting.
At that location, Gómez Leyva played video footage of the suspected leader of a criminal group from Michoacan state attending a church service attended by police officers. But this week, the man’s attorney, José Refugio Rodríguez, was on the radio of Gómez Leyva program and its related disclaimers.
On Tuesday’s radio broadcast, Gómez Leyva asked the co-host to read the names of all the journalists killed in Mexico this year.
He then spoke directly to the president: “They were killed in a territory,” said Gómez Leyva, “where he ruled and where he promised that there would be no more violence, that there would be no more. any more exemptions and where he failed miserably.”
Gómez Leyva then asked the co-host to read all the names one more time.
Oscar Lopez contribution report.