MEXICO CITY — Two prominent U.S. Senators published an open letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken asking him to “urge the Mexican government to seriously improve efforts to protect journalists.”
Four journalists in Mexico were killed in January, and a fifth was attacked but escaped unharmed in February after the attacker’s gun malfunctioned. Over 50 have been killed since Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took office in December 2018.
Sen. Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia, and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, asked the State Department on Tuesday to report on what it is doing to help improve safety for journalists in Mexico.
The two senators also criticized López Obrador’s habit of “consistently disparaging journalists for daring to criticize his administration.” The Mexican president’s news briefings include almost daily harangues against journalists he considers either sold out or “conservatives.”
“We are dismayed that President López Obrador continues his bellicose rhetoric against the press,” the senators wrote. “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,” they wrote.
“We request that the State Department provide detailed information on what specific steps the agency will take to ensure that there is transparency and accountability for the recent murders of journalists, and to better address the crisis of freedom of expression in Mexico,” the letter continued.
The unprecedented spate of killings has put reporters on edge across Mexico, and sparked protests earlier this month.
On Jan. 31, a journalist with an online news outlet in the western state of Michoacan was preparing to record a video interview when he was shot by to death by assailants.
In the border city of Tijuana, two journalists were killed in the space of a week. On Jan. 17, crime photographer Margarito Martínez was gunned down outside his home. On Jan. 23, reporter Lourdes Maldonado López was found shot to death inside her car.
Reporter José Luis Gamboa was killed in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz in an attack Jan. 10.
Interior Undersecretary Alejandro Encinas said recently that more than 90% of murders of journalists and rights defenders remain unsolved, despite a government system meant to protect them. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists puts the percentage at 95%.