By Paola Nalvarte and Teresa Mioli
In the early morning hours of March 28, journalist Julio Omar Gómez's house was set on fire in Baja California Sur and the bodyguard charged with protecting his life was shot and killed. About 24 hours later and across the country, Armando Arrieta Granados was shot while arriving home in Veracruz. Both journalists escaped, but one is in the hospital in serious condition.
These aggressions happened in the context of a particularly bloody month for journalism in Mexico in which three other journalists have been killed in the states of Veracruz, Guerrero and Chihuahua. Two of the murders were carried out just last week.
According to several media outlets in the country, a group of strangers with firearms attempted to set fire to Gómez’s house around 4 a.m., shooting at and seriously wounding his bodyguard, who died shortly after being transferred to a hospital. This is the third attack on the journalist in the last three months.
Gómez and his family, who were inside the house during the attack, were not hurt, according to site OctavoDía.
The journalist was under the Mechanism for the Protection of Journalists from the Ministry of the Interior, after reporting to the Attorney General of the Republic that his house and vehicle were set on fire in mid-December 2016, according to El Universal.
At the beginning of February, Gómez was again victim of a similar attack, after which he announced his retirement from the journalism world through his social networks, according to Proceso.
According to El Universal, Gómez published reports on crime in 9-1-1 Noticias, his Facebook page, since 2014. He also shared citizen complaints.
Additionally, he covered news on politics and on recent executions in Los Cabos as an independent journalist, Proceso said.
Journalist in serious condition in Veracruz
Journalist Armando Arrieta Granados is in serious condition after being shot early in the morning of March 29 in the doorway to his home in Poza Rica, Veracruz.
Animal Político reported that Arrieta had been a “strong critic of authorities” since 2005. The site said he demanded they investigate the April 8, 2005 killing of his boss Raúl Gibb Guerrero, the owner and director of La Opinión.
The State Commission for the Care and Protection of Journalists (CEAPP for its initials in Spanish) in Veracruz said it activated emergency protocols along with the State Public Security Secretariat to protect Arrieta and his family.
A deadly month
The first journalist killed this month was Cecilio Pineda Birto, director of newspaper La Voz de Tierra Caliente, on March 2 in Guerrero. Ricardo Monlui Cabrera, director of El Político, was fatally shot in front of his family in Yanga, Veracruz on March 19. And on March 23, Miroslava Breach Velducea, a correspondent for La Jornada, was killed while in her car, leaving her home in Chihuahua.
After Breach’s murder, journalists from several states of the country protests on March 25 and 26 against the killings of journalists in Mexico in recent days and years. The protesters demanded that authorities provide justice and greater protection for journalists, CimacNoticias reported.
When asked to comment about the apparent escalation in violence in certain parts of the country, Javier Garza, a Mexican journalist and adviser on safety to the World Association of Newspapers, told the Knight Center: “One possible explanation in the case of Chihuahua and Veracruz is that both states changed governments last year, the new governments are from the PAN and they are investigating corruption in the preceding administrations from the PRI. The situation in Guerrero, on the other hand, has been deteriorating for years and the state has been getting more dangerous for journalists, although other events have obscured this.”
"However, it's impossible to know because authorities lack credibility in their investigations because for years, more often than not, they have almost automatically discarded the journalistic work of the victims as motives for the attacks," Garza said.
He added that it was difficult to determine if people behind the violence are with organized crime, some level of government, security forces or a combination.
“The bottom issue is impunity, attacks against journalists are rampant because practically everyone who has attacked a journalist in the past has gotten away with it,” Garza said. “So anyone can do it with the certainty that nothing is going to happen.”
Garza added that 2017 is on track to be worse than 2016, “just as 2016 was worse than 2015 and so on.”
“Every level of government has proved incapable of guaranteeing the safety of journalists despite the creation of institutions like a special prosecutor or a federal protection mechanism, simply because it's very easy to attack a journalist,” he concluded.
Animal Político recently published that 99.7 percent of the attacks on journalists in Mexico go unpunished, according to official figures from the Office of the Prosecutor for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression (Feadle) in Mexico.
Of the 798 reports of assaults on journalists received by Feadle between July 2010 and December 2016, 47 of them were for murder, and there are only three convictions, Animal Político reported.
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.