Attacks on the press in Mexico have increased by 85% since President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took office, making it the deadliest period for journalists since records began, according to a new report.

Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists with 1,945 attacks – including 33 murders – between 2019 and 2021, according to press freedom group Article 19. Eight others have been killed so far. now this year.

In 2021, there were 664 documented attacks – the equivalent of one every 14 hours – including online threats, harassment, arbitrary criminal charges and seven murders. Government officials were linked to 274 of the incidents, while organized crime accounted for about 42.

Violence against journalists has increased over the past two decades, but has skyrocketed under López Obrador, who frequently attacks journalists and independent news outlets during his morning briefings. The populist president has repeatedly downplayed violence against the press and recently lashed out at the European Parliament after its members urged it to curb rhetoric denigrating the media.

But Article 19’s new report highlights the growing threat facing media workers across the country and warns that “denying this reality does not lead to urgent action being taken to stop this brutal spiral of violence”.

Mexican journalists face a myriad of threats.

Reporters covering corruption and politics continue to face the highest risks, followed by breaking news reporters covering shootings, accidents and other disasters. Journalists who cover migration were also the target of 20 documented attacks, which were often linked to immigration officials and the National Guard.

The 2012 murder of Regina Martínez sparked a wave of violence in the state of Veracruz and exposed the risks faced by local journalists brave enough to investigate the links between politics and organized crime.

“The impact of the murders of journalists is brutal, it affects their families and the profession as a whole,” said Patricia Mayorga, a journalist with the weekly Proceso. “Society needs to be convinced that without public service journalism we wouldn’t know what’s going on in the rest of the country.”

Last year, a global coalition of news agencies reported widespread illegal hacking under the previous administration, which used Israeli spyware Pegasus against human rights activists, teachers, academics and journalists. The investigation found that the phone of Cecilio Pineda, a local crime and politics reporter in Guerrero state, had been marked for targeting weeks before he was killed in 2017.

Nineteen journalists were assassinated during the first three years of Enrique Peña Nieto’s government and 26 under Felipe Calderón during the same period.

But López Obrador is the first to vilify journalists so consistently. In 2021, the president and his officials slandered the press at least 71 times, and the same insults were often repeated by private and public figures on the same day, according to the report.

“Violence against the press in Mexico is an ongoing tragedy. Democracies promised journalists guarantees to do their job…without journalism there is no democracy and vice versa,” said Pedro Vaco, special rapporteur for freedom of expression at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. ‘man.

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