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Free-speech group Article 19 says Mexico members have been threatened

MEXICO CITY — International free-speech organization Article 19 on Thursday said some of its Mexican members had received death threats and were subjected to thefts and spying during 2022, the deadliest year on record for journalists in the country.

Leopoldo Maldonado, Article 19’s Mexico and Central America director, said the organization’s members in Mexico had endured a total 17 attacks this year – including death threats, one of which was received by him, the partial burning of a coworker’s vehicle, espionage in offices and private homes, attempted phishing, and the theft of 1,600 computer files.

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“This has been the most intense year of attacks,” he said. “We hadn’t experienced it like this in a long time.”

He said three criminal complaints had been made and evidence had been presented to authorities, but that is was unclear who was behind the attacks due to delays in the investigations. The federal prosecutor’s office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

This year is the deadliest on record for Mexican journalists, according to Article 19, which said last month it had documented 18 killings and 331 attacks against local journalists in the first eight months of the year.

Article 19, a London-based group that is one of the most important organizations working to promote freedom of expression in Latin America, has repeatedly condemned lack of interest from authorities in protecting local media workers.

It has previously accused the government of using Israeli spyware firm’s Pegasus software to spy on journalists and human rights defenders.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has denied that his administration spies on journalists or political opponents and has accused Article 19 of being a conservative group dedicated to undermining his administration. Maldonado said that was untrue. (Reporting by Lizbeth Díaz; Writing by Carolina Pulice; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)