One of Mexico’s most prominent news anchors has survived an apparent assassination attempt near his home in the capital, in one of the brazen attacks on a journalist the country has seen in decades.
Ciro Gómez Leyva, a news anchor for national news channel Grupo Imagen, was driving a bulletproof SUV when the passenger on a motorcycle opened fire on him late Thursday.
Gómez was unharmed, but the attack highlighted the dramatic escalation of violence against Mexican journalists under the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, popularly known as Amlo.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 42 journalists were killed in the first three years of Amlo’s presidency. In comparison, 45 journalists were killed during the entire six-year tenure of the last president, Enrique Peña Nieto.
López Obrador has repeatedly criticized journalists who criticize his government, and violence against journalists has increased by 85% since he took office, according to Article 19 of the Organization for Press Freedom. Earlier this year, the director of the nonprofit also received a death threat the day he presented a report on the increasing dangers facing journalists in the country.
On Wednesday, Amlo criticized Gómez during a regular segment of his daily press conference that addressed what the president calls the media’s “lies of the week.”
At Friday’s press conference, the President condemned the attack on Gomez. “He’s a journalist, a human being, but he’s also a leader of public opinion. Hurting a character like Ciro creates a lot of political instability,” Amlo said.
Mexico City was once considered safer for journalists than many regions of the country. But that is changing.
“It is extremely worrying that something like this could happen in Mexico City,” said Jan-Albert Hootsen, the Mexican representative of the Committee for the Protection of Journalists, of the assassination. “It also speaks volumes for the audacity of some of these people that they are willing to go so far as to attack a person who is so well known in the media.”
The danger for journalists based in the city has increased in recent years. Rubén Espinoza, a photographer for Proceso Magazine, fled the state of Veracruz for Mexico City after receiving death threats while reporting corruption allegations against then-governor Javier Duarte. He was shot dead in his apartment along with four other people in 2015.
Just last year, the leader of the hyper-violent new-generation Jalisco cartel, Nemesio Rubén Oseguera Cervantes, known as “El Mencho,” threatened to kill Azucena Uresti, a host of TV station Milenio, who also lives in the capital.
And government officials have not been spared from the violence here.
In 2020, the city’s police chief survived an attack in one of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods by gunmen armed with .50 caliber armor-piercing machine guns.