Mexican journalist could lose her armed protection in 20 days

By Alejandro Martínez

In 20 days Mexican journalist Anabel Hernández, who has been threatened several times since 2010, could lose the armed escorts who have protected her for the last three years.

The executive coordinator of the Mechanism to Protect Journalists, Juan Carlos Guitérrez Contreras, told Hernández in an official notice that Mexico City's prosecutor's office would stop providing her with bodyguards in June.

In an e-mail to authorities responding to the notice, Hernández criticized the office for not providing her with an exact date for when her protection would end.

While the notice does say that the office will evaluate whether or not to extend her protection before the end of May, Hernández added that two months after first being notified that she could lose her bodyguards--and less than a month after the deadline--there was still no firm answer.

"It's incredible that after two months they still haven't resolved this, they haven't moved an inch," Hernández said in a telephone interview with the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. "Now they've left me worse off because I have less time to react."

Hernández added that other possible measures the Mechanism offered--including basic security measures at her home and her son's day care--would imply serious gaps that would leave her vulnerable.

"What good are security measures at my house if I'm not safe in the street? Security at my son's day care, what good is it if he's defenseless in the street?" Hernández wrote in her response to authorities. "I'm sorry that my case exemplifies the enormity of the irresponsibility, carelessness and lack of interest of the authorities in the threats against journalists like me that unfortunately often end in death."

Armed guards provided by the Federal District have accompanied Hernández since the end of 2010, shortly after the publication of her book "Los Señores del Narco." In several occasions since then, Hernández has received news that Genaro García Luna, the former-head of the country's main police agency during the previous administration, intended to kill her. Hernández accused García Luna of embezzlement and having links to the Sinaloa cartel.

Even though bodyguards have watched over her 24 hours a day since then, in 2011 her family was the target of an attack during a birthday party, her sources have been threatened, killed or jailed, and in March of this year she received more information suggesting she was in danger.

Gutiérrez Contreras admitted that the Mechanism understood that Hernández faced a high level of danger, the journalist said, but the agency would not confirm it in the written statement they sent her.

Hernández fears losing her protection because she believes it has so far discouraged attacks against her.

"That's why this legal void worries me," Hernández said. "That's going to be the moment when they strike."

While she has expressed her preference not to leave Mexico, Hernández said she still has not decided what she will do if she loses her protection at the beginning of June.



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.