We all want the same: Stop killing journalists in Mexico.
And what President Andrés Manuel López Obrador doesn’t understand is that when journalists and European Parliament members criticize his government because there’s so much violence, we don’t do it just to beat him up. Or because of ideology. Or because of coup plots or meddling. We do it, simply, to save lives. And because that’s our job.
“We are not armed. We have no weapons. Our only defense is the pen, a pencil, a notebook,” journalist Armando Linares wrote after the murder of one of his coworkers at the Monitor Michoacan Web page. “We will continue to denounce corruption, even if we lose our lives doing that.” Sadly, it was lost. He was murdered a few days ago, in his home.
AMLO has failed his most basic job: to protect the lives of Mexicans. Thirty-three journalists have been murdered since he took office, including eight this year, according to the Articulo 19 organization. That makes Mexico one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists, comparable only to war zones. If that trend continues, López Obrador’s six-year presidential term will be the most lethal for Mexican journalism this century.
This is important: We are not accusing AMLO of ordering the murders of journalists. As he says, these are not state crimes. But he has failed profoundly to protect the lives of journalists and is guilty of creating a negative atmosphere against independent journalists with his frequent and unjust public accastions against those who criticize him.
AMLO has become defensive. Instead of cooperating with journalists and international organizations to search for solutions to the violence against the news media, he has taken it personally. He insists, without offering any evidence, that there are international conspiracies and media campaigns against his government. None of that is true.
When the European Parliament approved a resolution urging protection for journalists and acttivists in Mexico – with 607 votes in favor – AMLO replied that the Eurodeputies had voted like “sheep.” And after a couple of public exchanges he said that one of the Eurodeputies who took the lead on the issue, Leopoldo López Gil, “made him laugh.”
“It makes me very sad that an issue so serious makes him laugh,” López Gil said in an interview from Madrid. “What gives me so much pain, what hurts so much, is that just after the resolution was approved there was another murder” of a journalist in Mexico.
López Gil is not new to journalism. He knows, like few others, what it is to confront tough leaders. For 25 years he was a member of the editorial board of the Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional. And he is the father of opposition leader and former political prisoner Leopoldo López, who escaped from the Venezuelan dicatorship in 2020.
I sought out López Gil to get an explanation of how that resolution reached the European Parliament. Everything began with a group of Mexican journalists.
The European Parliament’s Human Rights Commission “met with some Mexican journalists, whose names we are keeping private because of the dangers they face,” he told me. “They explained to us the situation confronting journalists in Mexico … simply that in the past three years, which coincide with the new administration, the number of murders and attacks on the news media had trippled.
López Gil stressed that for him, “this is not a personal issue at all. I have no problem with President López Obrador.” And he added that Eurodeputies from all factions had voted to protect the Mexican news media. “All the member countries of the European Union and all the political parties were represented. So there were deputies there from the extreme left to the extreme right.”
In the end, the issue is to stop the murders of Mexican journalists. “We are never attacking anyone,” he told me. “We are drawing attention to a situation that exists, sadly, because of impunity: 95 percent of murders have not been solved and no one has been put on trial, never mind sent to prison.”
The strategy of “hugs, not bullets,” has not worked in Mexico. Rosa Icela Rodríguez, the country’s Secretary for Citizen Safety and Protection, declared that the number ofr murders had been dropping across the country over the past nine months. That may be. But February saw an average of 83 daily murders. That cannot be a win in any country.
After the European Parliament approved the resolution, López Obrador told the deputies to “stop their obsessive meddling.” But he forgets that respect for human rights always trumps issues of sovereignty. The fact is that the AMLO administarion has been unable to reduce the violence against journalists. His plan to deal with the violence has bogged down.
It’s now time to listen to other ideas and stop taking it personally. It is not against the president. It is for the good of Mexico.
To fail to do so, sadly, will lead to more deaths.