Mexican journalist flees state after receiving threats

May 19, 2017 2:56 PM ET

Independent journalist Fabián García Castrejón fled the western Mexican state of Nayarit on May 15, 2017, after someone painted threats on the wall of his home, according to the journalist, officials, and media reports.

García, who contributes to national and international news outlets including Aristegui Noticias and who edits Ámbitos Nayarit, a local news website, discovered a threatening message painted on the wall of his house in the state capital of Tepic early the morning of May 13, 2017, according to reports.

"Te metiste con tu peor enemigo. Párale a tus mamadas por tu bien [You got involved with your worst enemy. Stop your bullshit for your own good]," read part of the message written next to his front door.

García immediately called 911 and contacted the Federal Protection Mechanism of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, according to an official from the mechanism, who asked not to be named because he was not an official spokesman for the body.

According to local reports, the federal mechanism assigned him a team of bodyguards, then relocated him to Mexico City the following day.

"We have been in close contact with him since he entered the mechanism," the official told CPJ. He said they were in the process of conducting a risk assessment to ensure their measures were sufficient to protect García.

García told CPJ the experience had left him feeling frightened and uncertain about his future.

"I feel alone. I don't know what to do. I have to keep working, but I can't go back," he said.

In a phone interview with Aristegui Noticias, the journalist described a series of threats against him over the last three years.

"It's a risky situation, I've suffered multiple threats," he said. "I'm upset because as a result of my investigative work, once again I've had to leave the state of Nayarit."

García previously left the state in 2015, following threats that he believed were connected to articles he had published on state government spending, according to reports. He told Aristegui Noticias that a few months ago someone broke into his house, stealing passports and other documents. He has been robbed on three separate occasions in recent months, he said, with thieves stealing documents, equipment, and money from his home.

In an interview with Norma Cardoso, another local journalist, García said he felt it was his responsibility to denounce the threats.

"They want to silence us," he said of the people threatening journalists, "but we are going to keep doing our work."

García had reported on government spending, corruption, and threats against journalists in Nayarit. He told CPJ that he believes the threats were related to his work, and that he does not think he will be able to return to his home state.

More than 100 journalists wrote a public letter in response to the threats against García. They called on Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Roberto Sandoval Castañeda, the governor of Nayarit, to investigate the threats and ensure a safe environment for journalists to work in the state.

The small western state has lower rates of violence and threats against journalists than do other Mexican states, such as Sinaloa and Veracruz. The official from the Federal Protection Mechanism of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists told CPJ that to his knowledge, García was the first of the mechanism's cases from Nayarit in at least three months.

García left Nayarit on the same day that journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas was murdered in Sinaloa. Earlier in May 2017, CPJ released a report, "No Excuse: Mexico must break cycle of impunity in journalists' murders," about violence against journalists in the country.

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