A prominent Mexican journalist survived an attack from two gunmen on a motorcycle drawing mixed messages from Mexico’s president as the country established itself as the most dangerous place for journalism in 2022.
Ciro Gomez Leyva, a well-known journalist in Mexico who works for Imagen Television’s nightly news broadcast, was shot at by gunmen on a Mexico City street last week and survived the attack thanks to being driven by an armored vehicle, Mexico News Daily reported.
“At 11:10 pm, 200 meters from my house, two people on a motorcycle shot at me, apparently with the clear intention of killing me,” Gómez Leyva wrote on Twitter. “I was saved by the armor of my truck that I was driving and I have informed the authorities of the matter.”
Visibly shaken, Gómez Leyva said he had no idea of who could have been behind the attack.
He said the only threat he had received was several years ago after he published a story about extortion at a Mexico City prison. Following that 2017 story, the media company he works for had insisted he use a bulletproof Jeep Cherokee.
The Mexico City’s prosecutors office said it had opened an investigation.
“He is a journalist, a human being, but what is more, he is a leader of public opinion, and injuries to a person like Ciro creates a lot of political instability,” said Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador, who has been a staunch critic of certain members of the press since taking power in 2018.
“We have differences, they are notorious and public, we are going to continue to have them,” the president added, “but it is completely reprehensible for anyone to be attacked.”
While Lopez Obrador condemned the attack, he has also made comments critical of the press and of Gomez Leyva in particular.
Lopez Obrador criticized the “spokespeople for conservatism” during a daily news conference calling out by name several high-profile independent journalists, including Gomez Leyva.
“Now they play victim,” added Lopez Obrador. “(But) they are the elite, from the most select media,” he said, claiming well-paid media figures seek to protect interest groups he did not name.
The president’s response drew strong pushback from many members of the Mexican press, New York Times reported, including a letter from prominent journalists condemning his comments critical of the press.
“Practically all the expressions of hate toward journalists are incubated, born and spread in the National Palace,” stated the letter signed by 180 journalists. “If President López Obrador does not control his impulses of anger toward critical journalists, the country will enter an even bloodier stage.”
In his popular morning radio program, Gómez Leyva said of the president, “I don’t have differences with him. We do our work as journalists.”
The media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reported this month that Mexico was the deadliest place for journalists in 2022.
The report registered 11 killings of media professionals in the Latin American country from January to Dec. 1, or nearly 20% of the global total, the report said.
Worldwide, RSF reported 57 journalist killings, an 18.8% increase from 2021, driven mainly by the war in Ukraine.
Freedom of speech advocacy groups have documented even more killings of media workers this year, making 2022 the deadliest year on record for journalists in Mexico.
THE Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
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