President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s daily news briefing was nearing its end Wednesday when a reporter stood up and said he was afraid for his life, dramatically underscoring the dangers faced by journalists in Mexico.
Reporter Rodolfo Montes said with his voice trembling that he was afraid the government would withdraw bodyguards assigned to him after he got a threatening telephone call. Montes said the caller claimed to be from the Jalisco drug cartel, but he suspected that wasn’t true.
“I suspect somebody else, they are hiding a government employee,” Montes said.
López Obrador pledged to protect him. Montes is an independent reporter who has contributed stories to the newsweekly Proceso and other national outlets.
He said he received the threat when he was in the Caribbean coast state of Quintana Roo, and that interior department officials helped him leave the state.
The fear is understandable. So far this year, a dozen reporters have been killed in Mexico, making it the most dangerous country for reporters outside a war zone.
“These kind of statements are a reflection of the danger and threats they face,” Jan-Albert Hootsen, the Mexico representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said of Montes’ direct appeal to the president. It was not the first time a reporter has complained at the president’s daily morning news briefing about being in danger.
“If they feel forced to go to the president, it’s because they have faced problems at lower levels” in the government, Hootsen said.
Over the weekend, a reporter in the northern border state of Sonora said gunshots had been fired at him in the city of Ciudad Obregon.
Reporter Rubén Haro wrote on his Las Noticias de la Red page that he was not injured and said the gunman may have mistaken him for someone else.
In June, Antonio de la Cruz became the 12th journalist killed so far this year in Mexico, when a man on a motorcycle fired at him in his car outside his home in the northern Mexico border state of Tamaulipas. His daughter Cinthya de la Cruz Martínez, 23, was with him in the vehicle at the time of the attack and she later died of her injuries.