Former mayor arrested for allegedly masterminding attack on journalist in Mexico

The former mayor of Silao (in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico), Enrique Benjamín Solís Arzola, was arrested on March 11 for alleged involvement in the attack against journalist Karla Silva from newspaper El Heraldo de León in 2014. After a long hearing, the local court ordered Solís to be taken into custody for two months, a period in which to conclude the investigation against him.

The former mayor is accused of being the alleged mastermind of the beating of Silva two years ago. As reported by magazine Proceso, the aim of the brutal aggression would have been to get Silva to lower the tone of her repeated criticisms of Solís’ management of municipal issues and local police.

The young Silva was violently beaten on the head and body by three men who broke into the offices of the paper El Heraldo de León, in the city of Silao, in September 2014. During the attack on Silva and her colleague Adriana Palacio, who was threatened with a knife, the attackers expressly demanded that she “lower” the tone of her reporting, the news portal AM published at the time.

Proceso also reported that Silva welcomed the decision of the Attorney General of the State of Guanajuato to arrest the former mayor and indicated that it constitutes a historic event in the fight against attacks to freedom of expression and against journalism in Mexico.

“I am fighting for everyone,” Silva said according to Correo. “For us as journalists, to secure for us a right to work and a space free of violence that places our lives and the exercise of our work at risk.”

In addition, more than 30 journalists and civil organizations celebrated, through a statement, the willingness to punish this event, and urged the authorities to carry out the process to the highest standards in human rights.

According to Proceso, they also stated that “the fact that a former mayor is identified as a mastermind of attacks against journalists is presented before a judge, represents a significant and unprecedented advance in the enforcement and administration of justice in Mexico, the most dangerous country to exercise journalism.”

In 2015, the Committee to Protect Journalists placed Mexico 8th in its Global Impunity Index, which lists countries where the killers of journalists go free. Although institutional mechanisms of protection have existed in the country since 2012, critics have highlighted their ineffectiveness.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.