Mexico City, July 26, 2017--Mexican authorities must undertake a swift and credible investigation into death threats sent to José Maldonado and ensure the journalist's safety, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Maldonado, who is based in Morelia, the capital of the central Mexican state of Michoacán, told CPJ he received a threatening email on July 21 signed Raúl Solorio. The email warned Maldonado, the 49-year-old editorial director of Agencia Mexicana de Noticias Noventa Grados, to stop reporting on the activities of the state's law enforcement agencies. The message, which CPJ has viewed, ends with a series of implicit death threats against Maldonado. The journalist told CPJ he does not know of anyone named Raúl Solorio.
"In Mexico, threats against journalists too often escalate to deadly violence," said CPJ Senior Program Coordinator for the Americas Carlos Lauría in New York. "Mexican authorities should swiftly investigate the threatening messages sent to José Maldonado, and ensure that he and other threatened journalists have the necessary protections to continue reporting safely."
Maldonado, who founded Agencia Mexicana de Noticias Noventa Grados in Morelia in 2007, covers a range of subjects, including crime and violence, corruption, and socioeconomic issues.
A translation of the threatening email said, "We have had conversations with you for some time in relation to the activities you have in your pamphlet, because [you are not] a journalist ... We believed you had disciplined yourself and had understood as other colleagues have, but we realize, reading your last articles, that you have not."
The email says that information published by Noventa Grados has become "uncomfortable" to Martín Godoy, the state attorney general, and Rodrigo González Ramírez, who heads the state's anti-kidnapping unit. The email ends with a series of implicit death threats, including a reference to Rogelio Arredondo Guillén, the director of Investigation and Analysis of the state attorney general's office, who was killed on July 1, and warns Maldonado that if he writes one more article it will be his last.
On July 13, Noventa Grados published an article about alleged ties between Arredondo and organized crime, following earlier pieces in March and May alleging ties between Michoacán law enforcement and other crime, such as gasoline theft.
Maldonado told CPJ that he believes the death threats are a direct response to at least some of those articles. A spokesperson for the state attorney general's office said she was not authorized to provide CPJ with comment on the case. Several phone calls that CPJ made to the office of Godoy on July 24 and 25 went unanswered.
Maldonado told CPJ he has been threatened before over his coverage of law enforcement. The Federal Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists has provided him with protection since 2015, after he and his family received several threats over his reporting. He told CPJ the mechanism provided him with a panic button. A spokesperson for the mechanism told CPJ yesterday that his institution is reviewing possibly providing additional safety measures for Maldonado, including police protection.
Ricardo Sánchez Pérez del Pozo, the federal Special Prosecutor for Attention to Crimes committed against Freedom of Expression, told CPJ yesterday that he is aware of the threats and that his institution, which works under the auspices of the federal Attorney General's Office, has opened an investigation. He said that Maldonado needs to give an official statement to the FEADLE. The journalist told CPJ he intends to do that as soon as possible.
Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. In 2017, at least four journalists have been murdered and one was abducted there, according to CPJ research, CPJ is investigating the case of a fifth journalist to determine if his killing is directly related to his work.