Mexico was the deadliest nation for the media this year, accounting for almost one-third of journalists killed, said the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which investigates attacks against the media globally.
Nine journalists were killed in Mexico this year, bringing the death toll to at least 120 since 2000. Last month, three journalists were shot dead within 10 days.
This year’s death count means that Mexican journalists are now more likely to be killed than those covering wars — the first time the nation has held the inglorious top ranking since the CPJ began tracking violence against the media in 1992.
“Mexico is suffering a multifaceted crisis with regard to press freedom. The situation has been getting steadily worse over the past few years, culminating in the country’s abysmal status as the world’s deadliest for reporters in 2020. The crisis principally stems from impunity,” CPJ Mexico representative Jan-Albert Hootsen said.
Overall, at least 90 percent of journalist killings remain unsolved.
Mexico has long been the most dangerous place for journalists outside an official war zone, with those investigating the nexus between organized crime and corrupt officials most frequently targeted.
Press freedom campaigners hoped that the dire situation would improve after the election of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in 2018, who pledged to tackle violence against journalists and end the impunity for the perpetrators, but attacks have spiraled amid unprecedented public hostility toward the media by the president.
The Mexican government has also weakened protection for journalists under threat and cut funds for investigations.
Two of the journalists killed this years were under supposed federal protection after having reported deaths threats linked to their work. In both cases their assigned bodyguards also died in the attacks.
Earlier this month, 25 international news media organizations, including the Guardian, published a series into the killing of journalists investigating links between organized crime and state officials in Mexico.
The Cartel Project, coordinated by Forbidden Stories — a global network of investigative journalists whose mission is to continue the work of reporters who are threatened, censored or killed — revealed details about how journalists have even been monitored by espionage units ostensibly set up to prevent organized crime.
“Criminal groups often collude with local authorities which leads to journalists being not only targeted, but also not finding any help from the authorities that are supposed to protect them. The federal government had done very little to stop the violence. The result is impunity in the vast majority of crimes against the press, which fuels and incentivizes more attacks against journalists,” Hootsen said.
The CPJ report makes it clear that press freedom is under attack by criminal gangs and elected officials across the world.
Globally, at least 30 journalists were killed between January and the middle of this month, the CPJ said. Of those, 21 were targeted in retaliation for their work — more than double the number of retaliatory killings documented last year.
The true number of journalists targeted because of their work could be significantly higher as the CPJ was still investigating the motive behind 15 other killings.
After Mexico, Afghanistan and the Philippines had the most retaliatory killings.
While murders rose overall this year, the number of direct combat-related deaths — three — fell to the lowest level since 2000, as the COVID-19 pandemic dominated media attention and made travel difficult for journalists.
All three journalists were documenting the conflict in Syria.
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