Mexico City, May 18, 2020 — Mexican authorities should immediately and transparently investigate a bomb threat against the Reforma newspaper and provide protective measures to guarantee the safety of its staff, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On May 14, at about 8:40 a.m., an unidentified man called the newspaper and threatened to blow up its Mexico City offices unless it stopped its critical coverage of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, according to a report published on Reforma’s website, and a video posted by the newspaper, which includes the recorded audio of the call.
The man told the Reforma employee who answered the call to tell the paper’s editors that they had “crossed the line” and “denigrated the president” in a May 13 report about the government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis. The caller also said that the paper’s editor-in-chief should “not be smearing the president of the republic, that he should not betray the fatherland, because, if he doesn’t [stop], those offices of your damn newspaper, we’ll blow it up.”
The man called on a phone number registered to the northern state of Baja California, and identified himself as a member of the Sinaloa organized crime syndicate, according to the call recording and the report by the newspaper.
“The recent bomb threat against Reforma is an unacceptable escalation of ongoing attacks against the newspaper over its critical reporting,” said Jan-Albert Hootsen, CPJ’s Mexico representative. “The federal government of President López Obrador cannot turn a blind eye to these threats in a country where violence against the press is already festering in almost complete impunity.”
López Obrador has repeatedly referred to Reforma as “neoliberal” and “conservative,” and cast it as an opponent of his government, according to news reports. On multiple occasions, this has led to online abuse against reporters and editors of the newspaper, including against editor-in-chief Juan Pardinas, as CPJ has documented.
A Reforma representative confirmed to CPJ in a phone call that the paper is taking additional precautions to ensure the safety of its staff and its offices. The representative asked not to be named, and did not specify the nature of the safety measures, citing safety concerns.
The Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which operates under the auspices of the federal Interior Secretariat, condemned the threat in a statement.
President López Obrador condemned the threat in comments provided to Proceso, a Mexico City news magazine, that same day. “We have nothing to do with this,” he said, adding that “we would not carry out a repressive act, never, because of our principles.”
Ricard Sánchez Pérez del Pozo, head of the office of the federal Special Prosecutor for Attention to Crimes Committed Against Freedom of Expression, told CPJ via messaging app that his office had been in touch with Reforma, but that it had not opened an investigation and was waiting for the newspaper to officially report the threat.
Today, the Reforma representative told CPJ that the paper had not filed an official report, citing doubts that authorities would take the threat seriously.
Mexico is the most dangerous country in the Western Hemisphere for journalists. Since the beginning of 2019, at least six journalists were murdered in the country because of their work, according to CPJ research. CPJ is investigating another seven killings to determine whether they were committed in direct retaliation to the work of the victims.