MEXICO CITY — Another journalist was murdered in Mexico yesterday—the eighth since 2022 began. The staggering death toll in less than three months has made Mexico the most dangerous place on Earth for journalists.
The government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador recently received international condemnation for the country’s levels of aggression against the press, but he continues to downplay the issue.
Armando Linares, the director of local online news outlet Monitor Michoacán, was gunned down in his home on March 15, according to state prosecutors. The killing came just six weeks after the murder of his colleague, Roberto Toledo, in January. The murders of both journalists took place in the town of Zitacuaro, near the world-famous monarch butterfly sanctuaries in the western state of Michoacán. While the region is known for being the yearly wintering grounds of the orange-winged butterflies, it’s also experienced fighting between rival criminal groups fighting over illicit drug activities, illegal logging schemes, and avocado extortion rackets, amid other problems, for years.
After Toledo’s death, Linares announced his colleague’s murder during a video published on January 31. He told The Associated Press at the time that journalists at the Monitor Michoacan had been receiving threats from a local group in the region that claimed to be linked to a larger organized criminal syndicate.
“They pass themselves off as an armed group, they pass themselves off as a criminal gang. We can’t verify whether it is true or not that they are this armed gang,” said Linares. He did not specify which group, nor why exactly he thought that Toledo was targeted, but said that “we wrote a lot about illegal logging and also a lot of issues like corruption in the municipal government.”
Prominent newspaper El País published a video a few weeks later that showed Toledo’s murder. It shows Toledo arriving at an office to conduct an interview when two young men approach him outside the building. The men can be seen speaking to Toledo, then entering the building. The two aggressors then flee with guns in their hands, apparently after having shot Toledo.
The prosecutor’s office has yet to announce a motive for the murder of Linares, nor any arrests in the Toledo killing in January.
The continuing murders of Mexican journalists has led to international criticism of the government’s response to the issue, and President López Obrador’s knack for insulting journalists and the press in general for coverage he considers unfair.
In February, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote: “I join those calling for greater accountability and protections for Mexican journalists.” López Obrador responded that the government doesn’t “tolerate the impunity of anyone” and claimed that Blinken received incorrect information from U.S. agencies working in Mexico.
Last week, the European Parliament approved a resolution that encouraged López Obrador to improve safety for local media and stop berating journalists. López Obrador often calls out journalists by name, disparages news organizations, and alleges that they are aligned with the opposition movement against him.
He did not respond well to the EU resolution.
López Obrador published an open letter lambasting the Europeans, calling them “sheep” who were joining a “reactionary and coup-mongering strategy of the corrupt group opposed” to his government.