Mexico City, June 3, 2021 – Mexican authorities must quickly and thoroughly investigate the recent attack on reporter Luis Raúl Aguilera Pérez and guarantee his safety, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
At about 2:30 a.m. on May 21, an unidentified man attacked Aguilera with a knife as he returned to his home in Pénjamo, a city in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato, according to the journalist, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview, and news reports.
Aguilera, the founder of the news outlets Pénjamo.Biz and Pénjamo.Biz 2.0, told CPJ, “I believe he was hiding behind a tree. I didn’t see him coming. I think he was trying to cut my throat.”
The journalist wrestled himself free from the attacker and ran to the home of a friend, he said. Aguilera received cuts on his arms and neck and underwent surgery at a local hospital, he told CPJ, saying that doctors stabilized him and released him several days later.
“Journalist Luis Aguilar thankfully escaped a recent knife attack alive, but he is only the latest journalist in Mexico to face a life-threatening assault,” said Jan-Albert Hootsen, CPJ’s Mexico representative. “Mexican authorities cannot continue ignoring the incessant violence against the press in the country. They must thoroughly investigate this case and hold the perpetrators to account.”
Aguilera is the founder and editor of Péjamo.Biz 2.0 a news outlet that publishes on Facebook, he told CPJ. He launched that page in March after his previous outlet, Pénjamo.Biz, was removed from Facebook over a copyright dispute, he said.
Aguilera told CPJ that he reports almost exclusively on local politics in Guanajuato, with a focus on Pénjamo and its surroundings. His most recent articles on Pénjamo.Biz 2.0 cover the activities of political parties and candidates ahead of municipal and national elections scheduled for June 6.
On May 3, Pénjamo.Biz 2.0 posted allegations that Alejandro Flores Razo, a candidate for mayor of Pénjamo with the Green Party, had faced a lawsuit in 2018 for evicting residents in a small community south of the city. The following day, Pénjamo.Biz 2.0 posted a screenshot of a message from Flores threatening to take legal action over that story. In that post, Aguilera wrote that Flores would be “responsible for any attack on my physical integrity.”
CPJ messaged Flores at his Facebook account for comment, but did not receive any response; CPJ was unable to find other contact information for the candidate. CPJ also called the Green Party at the phone number listed on its Facebook page, but the call did not go through; CPJ emailed the party for comment, but did not receive any reply.
Susana Montero, a spokesperson for the Guanajuato state prosecutor’s office, told CPJ via messaging app that her office had opened an investigation into the attack.
Aguilar told CPJ that he had not received any other threats related to his reporting.
An official for the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists told CPJ that that office, which provides protective measures to reporters under the auspices of the federal Interior Secretariat, was in the process of incorporating Aguilar in a protection program, which the reporter also confirmed to CPJ. The official asked to remain anonymous, as they were not authorized to speak on the matter.
Mexico is the deadliest country in the Western Hemisphere for journalists. According to CPJ research, at least one reporter, Jorge Molontzín, disappeared in the country this year; CPJ is also investigating the May 2 killing of journalist Benjamín Morales to determine whether journalism was the motive.