Wednesday, November 30, 2022

As another journalist is killed, attacks on media continue to rise: report

A journalist was killed in Guerrero on Monday, becoming the 15th media worker to be murdered this year.

Fredid Román, a columnist and former newspaper director who had an online news program called “The Reality of Guerrero,” was shot dead in Chilpancingo, the state capital. His murder came seven weeks after his son, Vladimir Román, was gunned down in the same city.

According to a report by the news magazine Proceso, one lead under consideration by the Guerrero Attorney General’s Office (FGE) is that Fredid Román’s murder is related to a conflict between two criminal groups – Los Tlacos and Los Ardillos – over the production and sale of chicken in Chilpancingo.

The July 1 murder of Vladimir Román, who was a chicken distributor, came just weeks after eight people with connections to the poultry industry were killed in the state capital.

Police stand guard at the site of Fredid Román's murder in Chilpancingo.
Police stand guard at the site of Fredid Román’s murder in Chilpancingo.

Proceso said it had access to official reports that indicated that it’s possible that the murders of both Fredid Román and his son were ordered by Jose David Barrientos Salazar, the leader of a citizens’ security force believed to be the armed wing of Los Ardillos.

Ramón Celaya Gamboa, a senior official with the FGE, said Tuesday that authorities were committed to holding those responsible for the latest murder to account. “The commitment of the Attorney General’s Office is to ensure that this crime doesn’t go unpunished,” he said.

“… The criminals that operate in the El Ocotito valley [in the municipality of Chilpancingo] should know that we have you perfectly identified. We know that there are criminal groups and that there are different interests.  … We’re facing up to them and you won’t intimidate us,” Celaya said.

The prosecutor also said that “all possible theories have to be worked on” to determine the motive for the journalist’s murder. “We still have to rule out that it wasn’t related to his work,” Celaya said.

Román’s murder came just days after press freedom advocacy organization Article 19 published a new report on violence against the press in Mexico.

The report, titled Impunity and Denial in the face of Extreme Violence against the Press Persists, said that there were 331 verbal, online and physical attacks against journalists and the media in the first six months of 2022. Article 19 highlighted that the figure is 51.8% higher than in the first half of 2016, when former president Enrique Peña Nieto was in his fourth year in office, as President López Obrador is now.

The report noted that the five most common kinds of aggression were intimidation and harassment, with 101 cases; threats, with 66 cases; illegitimate use of public power, with 45 cases; physical attacks, with 29 cases; and the blocking or alteration of content, with 28 cases.

Just under one-third of the attacks – 105 of 331 – occurred online. Twelve journalists were murdered in Mexico between January and June, Article 19 said, adding that there was evidence that nine of those were killed due to their journalistic work.

The report said that various levels of government have justified against the press by calling the media in question "conservative, sold or adversarial."
The report said that various levels of government have justified against the press by calling the media in question “conservative, sold or adversarial.” Pictured: presidential spokesperson Elizabeth García Vilchis. Presidencia de la República

The organization said that in the first half of the year it “documented the persistence of stigmatizing discourses against journalists and the media, which seek to turn the messenger into the message, detracting from the investigations or original reports of the press.”

It said that López Obrador is responsible for a “cascade effect,” which has caused authorities at all levels of government to “deny their responsibilities and even justify violence against the press by classifying it as conservative, sold or adversarial, among other [descriptors].”

The report identified “the Mexican state” as the foremost perpetrator of aggression against journalists and the media, with 61 attacks committed by state governments, 44 by municipal governments and 23 by the federal government. Among the other attackers are private citizens, criminal groups, political parties, police and the armed forces.

Article 19 said that Mexico City recorded the highest number of attacks in the first half of the year with 49. Yucatán and Michoacán ranked equal second with 30, followed by Tamaulipas with 21 and Chiapas with 20.

“The fact that the press was attacked every 14 hours in the first half of 2022 shows that violence against journalists and the media has not been curbed. On the contrary, the increase in lethal violence speaks of a worsening of the conditions of vulnerability under which the press exercises its work,” Article 19 said.

With reports from Proceso and AP

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