Police cordon tape is seen in Mexico City on June 26, 2020. Journalist Alberto Amaro Jordán was recently threatened online and by a local mayor east of Mexico City. (Reuters/Henry Romero)

Mexican mayor attempts to drive journalist Albert Amaro off road

Mexico City, March 8, 2021 – Mexican authorities must immediately investigate threats made to journalist Alberto Amaro Jordán and guarantee his safety, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On March 2, at about 6:15 p.m., a sport utility vehicle attempted to force Amaro off the road while he was driving with his son in the municipality of Tetla de la Solidaridad, in Tlaxcala state, east of Mexico City, the journalist told CPJ in a phone interview.

He said the car attempted to crash into his vehicle and “just barely missed me,” and that he identified its driver as Eleazar Molina Pérez, the mayor of that municipality.

Amaro said he and the police officers who accompany him as bodyguards overtook Molina Pérez’s vehicle, and the officers escorted the mayor to a local office of the Tlaxcala state prosecutor. The mayor was released shortly afterwards without being charged, Amaro told CPJ.

Amaro is the co-founder and editor of La Prensa de Tlaxcala, a news website that covers general news, politics, and crime in the state, and has been highly critical of Mayor Molina Pérez, according to CPJ’s review of the website.

Prior to the traffic incident, the website had criticized the mayor’s potential run for federal congress and reported on allegations of corruption involving Molina Pérez.

“Journalists such as Alberto Amaro are all too often targeted in Mexico for doing their work, in an atmosphere of extreme violence and almost complete impunity for crimes against the press,” said Jan-Albert Hootsen, CPJ’s Mexico representative. “Authorities in Tlaxcala state cannot let threats and other acts of intimidation stand, and should ensure that Amaro can work safely and that anyone who threatens him is held to account.”

Later that day, a Facebook user named Gaston Tadeo Armendis sent Amaro a message telling him to “value your life and that of your family” and accusing him of writing “a sensationalist report” about him, but did not name any specific report, according to a screenshot of the message, which CPJ reviewed.

Amaro told CPJ that he does not know anyone by that user’s name, and did not know whether the Facebook message was related to the incident earlier that day.

In a statement published on the Tetla de la Solidaridad municipal government’s official Facebook page on March 3, the mayor denied having tried to force Amaro’s vehicle off the road, and wrote that the mayor “has been tolerant” of La Prensa de Tlaxcala’s coverage of his administration, despite the website’s “lack of objectivity.”

CPJ called the mayor’s office for comment, but no one answered.

Last year, on April 15, a Tetla municipal police commander threatened Amaro when he was covering a protest in the town, and previously, in August and September 2019, the journalist reported gunshots being fired at his home and saw an unknown individual taking photographs of his residence, he told CPJ.

He said he documented both incidents with the Mexican office of press freedom group Article 19, and that, following those incidents, he enrolled in a protection scheme with the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists. He told CPJ that he has been assigned state police officers as bodyguards who accompany him whenever he travels for work.

An official with the federal mechanism confirmed Amaro’s accounts of those incidents and that he received protective measures; the official asked to remain anonymous, as they are not allowed to speak publicly on the matter.

Mexico is the deadliest country in the Western Hemisphere for journalists. Last year alone, at least five reporters were killed in direct relation to their work, according to CPJ research.