Mexican anchor Azucena Uresti was threatened in a video by a man purporting to represent a gang leader. (Photo: YouTube/Milenio Televisión)

Mexican news anchor Azucena Uresti threatened in video by alleged gang leader

Mexico City, August 10, 2021 – Mexican authorities must immediately act to protect news anchor Azucena Uresti and investigate death threats against her, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Uresti, one of Mexico’s best known news anchors who hosts programs on television broadcaster Milenio Televisión and radio broadcaster Radio Fórmula, was threatened yesterday by an unidentified man claiming to speak for the leader of one of Mexico’s most powerful drug trafficking cartels in a video widely circulated on social media, according to news reports.

In the video, which CPJ reviewed, the man said he represents Nemesio Rubén Oseguera Cervantes, alias “El Mencho,” whom news reports allege is the leader of the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel (CJNG), in delivering a message threatening to kill Uresti over her reporting on ongoing violence allegedly involving CJNG in the Tierra Caliente region of the central Mexican state of Michoacán.

“I assure you that wherever you are I will find you and I will make you eat your words even if they accuse me of femicide,” the speaker says on behalf of the alleged gang leader.

“The threats against Azucena Uresti, a nationally known news anchor, are unprecedented even in the most dangerous country for journalists in the Western Hemisphere and represent yet another escalation in violence against reporters in Mexico,” said Jan-Albert Hootsen, CPJ’s Mexico representative. “Mexican authorities cannot stand idly by and allow a nationally broadcasted news anchor to be threatened with impunity.”

In the blurry recording, which depicts masked men carrying automatic rifles and other firearms, the man says also that the alleged gang leader finds Uresti’s reporting “unbalanced” and accuses her of taking money from local gangs in Michoacán in exchange for favorable coverage and of criticizing him personally on air.

According to CPJ’s review of her work on Milenio Television and Radio Fórmula, Uresti has been intensively covering the conflict in Tierra Caliente in recent days.

A correspondent in Michoacán for a national newspaper who has covered violence in Tierra Caliente for years told CPJ via phone that he believes the alleged gang leader was angered by Uresti’s August 4 report on Radio Fórmula in which she interviewed a member of what she describes as a “self-defense group” which has been clashing with CJNG, in part about his criticism of “El Mencho.” The correspondent asked CPJ not to be named for safety reasons.

Mexican authorities have not publicly confirmed whether the threatening video is genuine, but President Andrés Manuel López Obrador condemned the threats against Uresti in his daily press briefing this morning in Mexico City, which was published on the government’s YouTube channel. The president added that he had ordered undersecretary for Human Rights Alejandro Encinas and the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which Encinas supervises, to provide protection for the reporter.

The threatening video was posted yesterday morning on Twitter by an anonymous user whose account is now suspended.

Uresti addressed the threats during her broadcast on Milenio Televisión yesterday, which the channel published on YouTube, and told viewers that she would continue reporting. Milenio Televisión issued a statement yesterday condemning the threats and confirming its support for the reporter.

CPJ sent several messages to Uresti via messaging app but did not receive a reply. CPJ attempted to reach Milenio Televisión and Radio Fórmula by telephone but the calls were not answered.

Enrique Irazoque Palazuelos, the head of the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, confirmed via messaging app that the agency had contacted Uresti and was in the process of incorporating her in a federal protection program. He did not provide details on the protective measures.

Mexico is the most dangerous country for journalists in the Western Hemisphere, according to CPJ research.