Journalists in Mexico have responded with fury and despair at the murder of a fourth reporter in the country this year, cementing its reputation as the world’s most murderous country for media workers.
Roberto Toledo was shot dead by three gunmen on Monday afternoon in a carpark in the city of Zitácuaro, where he reported for a local news outlet, Monitor Michoacán. Zitácuaro is best known for the nearby monarch butterfly reserves, but the region is rife with violence as drug cartels and criminal groups fight to control illegal logging.
“Exposing corruption led to the death of one of our colleagues,” said Armando Linares, the director of Monitor Michoacán, in video posted on Facebook. Linares broke down in tears before offering his apologies to Toledo’s family.
“[Toledo] lost his life at the hands of three people who shot him in a mean and cowardly manner,” he continued. “We don’t carry weapons. We only have a pen and a notebook to defend ourselves.”
The killing deepened the sense of desperation among journalists in Mexico, who accuse Andrés Manuel López Obrador of failing to take meaningful actions to protect them and their colleagues.
“In López Obrador’s discourse, he says, ‘the state no longer persecutes journalists’ and he’s correct,” said Javier Garza, a journalist in the city of Torreón. “But he doesn’t stop any of the other actors” from attacking members of the press.
In response the recent spate of killings, the president, known as Amlo, has instead blamed the legacy of “neoliberalism” and claimed that political opponents were stirring outrage over the murder of reporters to discredit his government.
Adding to the sense of impotence among reporters is the fact that several journalists attacked or killed slain this month were enrolled in a scheme supposedly designed to provide for reporters under threat.
“Nobody in authority cares about journalism, unless it helps keep them in power. Let’s not fool ourselves,” tweeted Rafael Cabrera, an investigative reporter.
Press freedom organisation the Committee to Protect Journalists counts 32 media workers murdered in Mexico since December 2018 – not counting Toledo’s case – when López Obrador took office. Those most at threat are local reporters investigating links between politics and organized crime.
Toledo was the fourth Mexican journalist murdered in 2021. Lourdes Maldonado López was shot dead 23 January as she arrived at her Tijuana home. One of the windows of her vehicle was covered in plastic as colleagues say it had been shattered previously by gunfire. Maldonado appeared at the president’s morning press conference in 2019 and told López Obrador: “I fear for my life.”
Tijuana photojournalist Margarito Martínez was killed by a lone attacker in his home 17 January, according to state authorities.
José Luis Gamboa was stabbed at least seven times 10 January in the port city of Veracruz. He had commented critically on crime and politics for Inforegio, a news site he co-founded.
Two journalists in the states of Yucatán and Oaxaca also survived attacks, according to Mexican media reporters.
Journalists staged protests in more than a dozen Mexican cities last week after Maldonado’s slaying.
“What makes such a wave of journalist killings possible is that criminal interests – through government inertia, complicity or direct authorship – are almost never properly investigated or punished,” said Falko Ernst, senior Mexico analyst at the International Crisis Group. “There’s near-perfect impunity.”