The murder crisis gripping Mexican journalism has claimed another life after a journalist was gunned down in the conflict-stricken state of Michoacán just six weeks after he announced the murder of a colleague.
Armando Linares López, the director of a news website called Michoacán Monitor, was reportedly shot at least eight times on Tuesday afternoon outside his home in the city of Zitácuro. He is the eighth Mexican journalist to be killed in 2022, compared with nine in the whole of last year.
“Words fail me,” tweeted Jan-Albert Hootsen, the Mexico representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists, after hearing of the latest murder in what he called a “staggering, excruciating” crisis facing Latin America’s number two economy.
Hootsen said he had spoken to Linares after the murder of his colleague, Roberto Toledo, in the same city on 31 January.
Linares reported his colleague’s killing in an emotional video, saying that Toledo had been targeted for exposing corruption. “We don’t carry weapons. We only have a pen and a notebook to defend ourselves,” he said.
After the murder, Linares grew concerned for his own safety. “He told me that he had received threats, that he was concerned about his safety,” Hootsen said.
On Tuesday Linares’s worst fears were confirmed when he was killed by assassins who remain on the loose. More than 90% of such crimes go unsolved in Mexico, which is one of the most dangerous countries for journalists outside war zones.
Speaking at his daily press conference on Wednesday, Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, insisted authorities were responding to the crime. “We are already investigating,” the president, who is best known as Amlo, told reporters, although few members of Mexico’s media have faith in the government’s ability to stop the wave of killings targeting journalists.
In a statement, one press activist group from Michoacán slammed the Mexican government’s “apathy” towards the murders. “There are no words to describe the anger, impotence and disgust we feel over the growing number of murders of journalists in Mexico and in Michoacán,” they wrote.
The murders – several of which have taken place outside journalists’ homes – have sparked an outcry in the world of journalism as well as growing international condemnation. Last week members of the European parliament voted overwhelmingly to condemn the murders and denounce López Obrador’s use of populist rhetoric “to denigrate and intimidate independent journalists, media owners and activists”.
The MEPs claimed such behaviour was contributing to “an atmosphere of relentless unrest towards independent journalists”.
López Obrador, who – like his fellow regional populists Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro – is notorious for attacking the media, took the criticism badly. In a statement that the president helped write, Mexico’s government said the MEPs were the “sheep” of “reactionary” conservative “coup-mongers” supposedly trying to undermine López Obrador’s nationalist government.
The posture of Amlo – whose attacks on the media have grown in recent weeks – has caused outrage among journalists at a time when so many of their peers are being killed.
On Wednesday morning journalists took to the streets of Michoacán’s capital, Morelia, to protest, clutching banners that read: “You can’t kill the truth by killing journalists” and “No more murders! Do not shoot!”