MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers urged Mexico on Tuesday to step up protection following the killing of four journalists this year, and criticized President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador for publicly lashing out at his government’s critics in the media.
Writing in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Senators Tim Kaine and Marco Rubio asked for the U.S. administration to take a bigger role in pushing the Mexican government for stronger action.
“Current efforts to protect journalists are inadequate … the U.S. must work alongside Mexico to develop a more comprehensive plan to reduce the violence,” the senators wrote.
Kaine and Rubio expressed concern over “widespread impunity,” and said the Mexican president’s attitude towards critics in the media needed to change in order to improve journalists’ security.
“The years-long violence against journalists in Mexico cannot begin to lessen as long as the country’s leader continues to normalize hostility towards freedom of expression,” the letter said.
In January alone, armed assailants killed Jose Gamboa in the southeastern state of Veracruz, Margarito Martinez and Lourdes Maldonado in the northern border city of Tijuana and Roberto Toledo in the western state of Michoacan.
Maldonado was killed three years after she raised the issue of killings with President Lopez Obrador and said she feared for her life. Lopez Obrador said he regretted her death and pledged an investigation.
Martinez, a photographer who covered crime, was shot in the head outside his home.
Hundreds of journalists last month gathered in protests across the country to mourn their deaths and demand authorities provide better protection.
As killings of journalists and media workers have stacked up over the last couple of decades, few culprits have been punished and numerous reporters have entered a government protection program after receiving death threats.
Advocacy organization Article 19 has documented some 145 killings of journalists in Mexico from 2000 to 2021, making the country one of the deadliest in the world for media professionals outside a war zone.
(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)