Six weeks ago, journalist Armando Linares choked on a video announcing the murder of a colleague and promised to continue doing journalism that exposes the corrupt. Now Linares has also been shot – the eighth journalist killed in Mexico this year.
On Wednesday, his wife, children, siblings and friends prepared to see him off to a small funeral home.
After initially halting reporting for a few weeks and closing the office of Monitor Michoacan following the murder of cameraman Roberto Toledo, Linares returned to reporting and resumed publishing the online news site.
He has written stories about monarch butterflies wintering in the mountains around Zitacuaro, butterfly-related festivities and other hyper-local and state-run news — but the criticisms of local officials he was known for before the Toledo murder disappeared.
Still, the threat to journalists had persisted, which Linares seemed to expect.
On January 31, the day Toledo was killed, Linares looked directly at the camera and said, “There are names. We know where it all comes from.
“The Monitor Michoacan team has suffered a series of death threats,” he said. “To expose the corruption of corrupt governments, corrupt officials and corrupt politicians today has resulted in the death of a friend of ours.”
Linares told The Associated Press shortly after that he continued to receive threats, signed up for the federal government’s Journalist Protection Program and had National Guard protection. .
“He never gave in to anyone,” Liares’ wife Rosa Elena Pedraza said. “He died doing what he wanted, he was a brave man.”
She said Linares enjoyed government protection for a month after Toledo’s murder, but later said she was waived. “If everything is calm, they remove the protection,” she said.
On Tuesday evening, Linares was shot and killed at his home in Zitacuaro. His body was found in the doorway with gunshots to the chest, according to the prosecution. Authorities recovered 9mm casings from the scene. Authorities have not provided any alleged motive.
Magdalena Alonso, director of the Zitacuaro on the Air news program and friend of Linares, said “for many reasons it is easy for them to attack you…because there is not much security and the authorities do not feel responsible for providing it.”
Illustrating the point, an unidentified man approached a group of reporters Wednesday afternoon gathered at the entrance to the funeral home. He showed them a gun hidden inside his clothes and told them they had two minutes to leave.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, in his daily press conference on Wednesday, said Linares had not accepted protection.
“Michoacan journalists ask all public servants to keep their condolences,” journalist Rodolfo Montes said during the president’s press conference. “There is outrage… there is fury, there is helplessness in the face of this wave of killings.”
López Obrador repeated his promise that there would be no impunity in Linares’ case and said there was no evidence that officials were responsible. But at another point, the president continued his frequent attacks on the press, alleging “lies” and calling some “mercenaries”.
In the Michoacan state legislature, dozens of reporters stood outside the chamber with signs reading, “The dovish government doesn’t kill reporters” and “Press. Do not pull.
A group of journalists called “Not one more Michoacan” said in a statement that “Armando’s calls for vigilance and help have not been heeded.” He also criticized the state and federal governments for decrying Monitor Michoacan’s professionalism and downplaying the threats its staff faced.
Assassinations of journalists have occurred at the rate of nearly one a week this year, an unprecedented wave of violence against the profession in Mexico. Activists and the government have blamed much of the blame for the high rate of impunity in the killings of journalists and human rights defenders, as well as ordinary Mexicans.
Jan-Albert Hootsen, the representative in Mexico of the US Committee to Protect Journalists who spoke with Linares after the Toledo killings, mourned his death.
“In a world where disinformation and the manipulation of every narrative is a brutal goal pursued by those in power and willing to resort to deadly violence, journalists are legitimate targets and impunity is the most powerful tool powerful to silence them,” he said via Twitter.
Interior Undersecretary Alejandro Encinas said at a free speech event at the Norwegian Embassy on Wednesday that “if there is no prevention, if there is no no investigation and if there is no sanction, impunity will continue to prevail in these incidents”.
Linares did not want Toledo’s murder to go unpunished. In his video, he addressed the family of his colleague: “We are not going to leave things like this. We will take them to their final consequences.