Six weeks ago, journalist Armando Linares choked up in a video announcing the killing of a colleague and promised to continue doing journalism that exposed the corrupt. Now Mr. Linares too has been gunned down – the eighth journalist killed in Mexico this year.
Mr. Linares continued to publish the Monitor Michoacan online news site after the death of camera operator Roberto Toledo, writing stories about the monarch butterflies that winter in the mountains around Zitacuaro, butterfly-related festivities and other hyper-local and state news – occasionally including criticism of local officials.
But the threat for journalists had persisted, something Mr. Linares seemed to expect.
On Jan. 31, the day Mr. Toledo was killed, Mr. Linares looked straight at the camera and said, “There are names. We know where all of this comes from.”
“The Monitor Michoacan team has been suffering a series of death threats,” he said. “Exposing the corruption of corrupt governments, corrupt officials and politicians today has led to the death of one of our friends.”
Mr. Linares told the Associated Press shortly afterward that he had continued receiving threats, enrolled in the federal government’s protection program for journalists and was receiving protection from the National Guard.
But on Tuesday evening, he was shot and killed at his Zitacuaro home. His body was found in the doorway with gunshots to the chest, according to the state prosecutor’s office. Authorities recovered 9-mm shell casings at the scene. Authorities have not provided a suspected motive.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, speaking at his daily news conference on Wednesday, said Mr. Linares had not accepted protection, raising the question of whether he had left the program at some point.
“Michoacan’s journalists ask all public servants to save their condolences,” reporter Rodolfo Montes said during the president’s news conference. “There is indignation … there is fury, there is impotence at this wave of killings.”
Mr. Lopez Obrador repeated his promise that there would not be impunity in Mr. Linares’s case and said there was no evidence public servants were responsible. But at another point, the President continued his frequent attacks on the press, alleging “lies” and calling some “mercenaries.”
In Michoacan’s state legislature, dozens of journalists stood at the front of the chamber holding signs that read: “Pacifist government doesn’t kill journalists” and “Press. Don’t shoot.”
A journalist group called “Not one more Michoacan” said in a statement that “the calls to be alert and help from Armando were not listened to.” It also criticized the state and federal governments for disparaging the professionalism of Monitor Michoacan and downplaying the threats its staff faced.
The killings of journalists have been coming at a rate of nearly one a week this year, an unprecedented spate of violence against the profession in Mexico. Advocates and the government have placed much of the blame on the high rate of impunity in killings of journalists and human-rights defenders – as well as ordinary Mexicans.
Jan-Albert Hootsen, the representative in Mexico for the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists who had spoken with Mr. Linares after Mr. Toledo’s killing, lamented his death.
“In a world where disinformation and manipulating every narrative is an objective brutally pursued by those with power and willing to use deadly violence, journalists are legitimate targets and impunity is the most powerful tool to silence them,” he said.
Mr. Linares did not want Mr. Toledo’s killing to go unpunished. In his video, he addressed his colleague’s family: “We aren’t going to leave things like this. We are going to take them to their ultimate consequences.”
Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.