Monday, June 17, 2024

Journalist who was attacked by gunman challenges AMLO

An independent journalist who survived a murder attempt in December has confronted President López Obrador, urging him not to forget about the dangers that media workers in Mexico face.

Wearing an eye patch and with surgical pins in his face, Paul Velázquez, a video blogger who denounces corruption on YouTube and Facebook, appeared at the president’s news conference on Wednesday to demand justice for journalists who have been attacked and murdered.

“President, they are killing us, don’t forget it please, they are killing us,” he said.

Velázquez was shot in the face on December 19 while walking to his studio in Los Mochis, Sinaloa. He told the news agency Reuters that the attack occurred after a close collaborator of the mayor of Ahome, of which Los Mochis is the municipal seat, threatened his life.

Security camera footage shows a man stepping out from behind a car and shooting Velázquez. Another video, apparently recorded on a cell phone by a bystander, shows the journalist walking unsteadily into a grocery store, where he receives assistance as his blood flows across the floor.

Ahome Mayor Chapman: 'unconcerned' by the accusation against him.
Ahome Mayor Chapman: ‘unconcerned’ by the accusation against him.

Velázquez spent more than three weeks in the hospital, where he was given a tracheotomy and fed through a tube. He was unable to speak for 16 days. Since leaving the hospital, he has been receiving protection from the federal government.

On Wednesday, the journalist accused Mayor Manuel Guillermo “Billie” Chapman of ordering the attack on his life.

“President, I want to remind you that investigative journalists are not trophies for corrupt rulers to hunt down,” Velázquez said. Journalists are being attacked for speaking out against the embezzling of public money, he added.

The journalist previously appeared at a López Obrador news conference in April 2019, at which he accused Chapman of corruption and sought the president’s help to remove him from office. In response to Velázquez’s latest accusation, the mayor said that he was unconcerned.

For his part, López Obrador assured the journalist that his government will bring peace to Mexico and ensure that there is no impunity for criminals, including those that perpetrate attacks on journalists.

“We’re going to pacify the country; this is the great challenge … Impunity has to end [including] in your particular case,” he said.

López Obrador previously pledged in December to review Velázquez’s case but there have been no arrests.

Julio César Colin, a spokesman for the press freedom advocacy organization Article 19, said that the attack on the journalist was clearly related to his work and should be investigated by the special prosecutor for crimes against freedom of expression.

Mexico is considered the second most dangerous country in the world for journalists, after Syria. A total of 131 journalists have been killed since 2000, according to Article 19, including 11 since López Obrador took office in December 2018.

The president has been accused of contributing to a culture of violence against journalists by launching scathing verbal attacks on reporters and news outlets that are critical of his government.

After López Obrador criticized a story published by the Mexico City-based newspaper Reforma in April last year, the paper’s editor received death threats and was a victim of harassment.

Article 19 said at the time that the president’s “stigmatizing discourse [against the media] . . . has a direct impact in terms of the … risk it can generate for the work of the press because [his remarks] permeate the discourse of the rest of society and can even generate attacks.”

Source: Reuters (en), Infobae (sp) 

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