MEXICO CITY — Ciro Gómez Leyva, one of Mexico’s best-known radio and television correspondents, heard the shattering sound of gunshots bouncing off his car window as he drove home from work in his armored car last month. Bulletproof glass saved him from becoming another statistic in a deadly string of attacks against journalists in Mexico.
In 2022 alone, at least 13 Mexican journalists have been assassinated, the most in a single year. The country holds the record for the most murders of journalists working outside a war zone, and it also has the most missing journalists worldwide, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
The attack on Livia sparked outrage from fellow Mexican journalists, who posted a video and hundreds of tweets in support of Livia in the aftermath of the assassination attempt.
“The countless demonstrations of affection and solidarity that I have received, including those from almost the entire press union in Mexico, is something I will never cease to be grateful for,” Leyva told The Daily Beast in a recent interview.
Mexico, riddled with corruption and organized crime, is a dangerous place to cover the news. And while the country is notorious for drug-related violence, experts point to state authorities as the main abusers of journalists. More than half of the attacks recorded are related to coverage of corruption and politics.
Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador only inflamed the situation. He attacks journalists again and again, saying that they “lie as they breathe”. On December 14, the day before the attack, Obrador criticized Livia and other prominent Mexican journalists, calling them “very dishonest people”, “They even harm your health. If you listen to them too much, you can develop a tumor in your brain.”
Obrador baselessly suggested that the attack may have been staged to destabilize his government.
“he [Obrador] Faithful to what he said all his life, ”says Livia. His speech and his deeds are those of the endless struggle of a good people, whom he claims to symbolize and represent, against an evil conspiracy of corrupting forces, consisting of all those who do not agree to follow his principles, or worse dare to criticize or contradict him.”
Mystery still surrounds the motives behind the assassination attempt. “Yesterday, I had an attack,” he declared when he returned to his TV show the next day. “Someone wanted to kill me. I don’t know who. I don’t know why.”
It is still not clear, but the Mexican authorities arrested 16 suspects in the state of Mexico and the state of Michoacan on December 11 and 12. Paul Pedro “N”, the leader of a criminal cell linked to murders, extortion and drug dealing, is among the prime suspects arrested but there is no clear motive for attacking Livia.
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Leopoldo Maldonado, regional director of ARTICLE 19 – a global organization that advocates for freedom of expression – finds the president’s harsh attacks on the press extremely problematic. “This rhetoric allows for other attacks,” he said in an interview with The Daily Beast.
Livia still believes that he is in a better position than others.
“Despite everything,” he says, “I am an outstanding journalist.” “I work for two very strong companies. I direct and host two national newscasts on radio and television.”
Llanelli Fuentes, reporter and co-founder of Diario Alternativo, a small local media outlet in the state of Guerrero, says she has been subjected to many threats and attacks. They range from knocking on her door to intimidate her, to physically harassing and killing animals in her parents’ home. The attacks, she says, are a result of her reporting on abuses by the state’s community police, such as torture in local jails.
Hootsen agrees that in smaller communities, “it gets really sketchy” for journalists. Law enforcement is weak, and local journalists are easily identifiable. “It’s a small village. “Everyone knows everybody,” she said, noting that some of the most aggressive cops live just a few blocks from her home in Markelia, Guerrero.
As the threats intensified, Fuentes had to leave her home with her two 10-year-old twin sons. I moved to Barcelona, Spain, for 6 months through Taula por Mèxic, a program that provides temporary protection for Mexican journalists and activists at risk. Now living in a shelter in Mexico City, Fuentes is struggling to resume her reporting work.
Although their backgrounds and level of celebrity status could not be more different, Leiva and Fuentes share a fear for their lives.
Hootsen says he hates the “brave journalists” cliché because “these journalists fear for their lives every single day.”
Leva no longer dares to walk alone, saying that the assassination attempt changed his life overnight. The attack was a very unfortunate and painful event. It was one of the joys of my life to live as another citizen, without bodyguards or personal protection. I walk alone in the streets and parks, I shop in small boutiques, we socialize, I drive. This is over, at least for a while.”
Fuentes can’t avoid the dangers of walking alone.
“When I’m done talking to you here, and taking the subway myself, anything can happen,” she told The Daily Beast. “I can’t control my anxiety anymore, not under these circumstances.” She added that she rarely sees her children, who live with their father in Guerrero, and was brought to tears when she remembered her son once telling her, “Mom, we don’t want to go out with you, because they’re going to kill us.”
Despite all the trauma they are dealing with, both Leyva and Fuentes refuse to be silenced.
Fuentes still hopes to go home one day. “No,” she said, shaking her head after being asked if she considered quitting journalism.
Leva has no intention of quitting, “I made the decision to continue working,” he said. I am a journalist, not an academic. A journalist in a violent and dangerous country.
Read more at The Daily Beast.
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