Wednesday, May 08, 2024

Despite having an injunction preventing the Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists from withdrawing the surveillance detail that guarantees his integrity, journalist Alberto Amaro warns: “I continue to face obstacles in my quest for safety. Despite the difficulties I have encountered, I remain committed to my journalistic work. And despite the attempts at intimidation and the risks I face on a daily basis, I will continue to work to keep the population informed and to denounce corruption and violence in all its forms.”

By Alberto Amaro Jordán*

My name is Alberto Amaro Jordán, born in Apizaco, Tlaxcala (Mexico). I am a journalist and owner of the newspaper Prensa de Tlaxcala. In 2019, I was enrolled in the federal government’s Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists due to the repeated threats I received for exercising my profession. Since then, the attacks against me have continued.

On two occasions, unknown persons fired shots at my home, the last time in September 2023 while my youngest son was playing in the yard. On another occasion, my home was broken into by at least three men while my wife and young children were present. The bodyguards provided by the Mechanism surprised and confronted the attackers, who fled the scene. Thanks to this surveillance detail, more serious harm was averted. I also received life threats and was attacked twice by a former mayor of Tlaxcala, something my family unfortunately witnessed.

After a series of attacks, the federal Mechanism requested the cooperation of the Tlaxcala authorities for the local state police to take over my security. However, this increased the risks for me and my family because of the criticism I had published against local police commanders in the course of my work. In this context, Alfredo “N”, the former Secretary of Public Security of Tlaxcala – who is currently on the run for crimes of enforced disappearance – ordered the local state police to take photographs of my family and to track my movements, in order to inform him of where I went and who I met.

In November 2021, I was arrested for filming Tlaxcala state police officers extorting citizens. This unjust arrest and the use of local state police for my security are evidence of the vulnerable situation I find myself in due to the flawed application of security measures by the Mechanism. Despite the attacks and threats I have received, I have continued my journalism, exposing acts of corruption and violence in police institutions and political groups.

At the end of November 2021, I was assigned private bodyguards; at the end of September 2022, they were replaced by the Federal Protective Service. The support included a vehicle that was in poor condition and broke down in less than 24 hours, when the brakes failed. The situation seemed to be of little concern to the Mechanism, the only reply to the various emails I sent being to say that the information would be passed on to the relevant department. Another limitation is the fact that the bodyguards only cover Tlaxcala, Puebla and Mexico City, thereby restricting my safety without any legal basis, since Article 30 of the Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists provides that the activities of beneficiaries shall not be restricted under any circumstances.

In November 2022, I was the target of two unusual vehicle assaults. The first was recorded on my vehicle camera and was interpreted as an assault; the second was recorded by my bodyguards on a briefing card which was subsequently altered, and the incident therefore treated as a road traffic accident.  However, it was the same vehicle involved in the first incident, as evidenced by the recording on my vehicle camera.

In December 2022, my physical integrity was threatened by members of an organized criminal gang who attempted to bribe me so that I would not publish information critical of them. I refused, standing firm in my position.

In July 2023, the Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists carried out a risk assessment of my case, which did not adequately reflect the threats I face as a communicator. The Mechanism justified the withdrawal of my bodyguards on the grounds that one person had already been arrested and I was no longer at risk from the criminal cell that had threatened me.

The debate over the withdrawal of the bodyguards assigned to my protection sparked controversy between the authorities of the federal Mechanism and the members of its Governing Board. Despite obtaining an injunction to keep my bodyguards, I continue to face obstacles in my quest for security as I persist in bringing the news to my beautiful home state of Tlaxcala.

Throughout this legal process, I have had the invaluable support of my family and of human rights defenders such as Viridiana Bahena and lawyers Beatriz de la O Yerenas and René Cosme Ramos Limón. I am deeply grateful for their help in protecting my loved ones and seeking justice in the difficult environment facing journalists in Mexico.

As a result of the legal proceedings pursued by them, bodyguards have been assigned to my wife and children and they have gradually started to venture out of the house. The Mechanism was forced to comply with a second instance decision that is now irrevocable, although it has, with no legal basis, limited the protection of my family to Tlaxcala, Puebla and Mexico City, with only one trip per month to the latter two states.

It is important to stress that I remain committed to my journalistic work and to the defence of human rights in my state despite the difficulties I have encountered. And despite the attempts at intimidation and the risks I face on a daily basis, I will continue to work to keep the population informed and to denounce corruption and violence in all its forms.

As Mexicans, we are all aware of the importance of freedom of expression, as enshrined in our Constitution, and of the responsibility of the federal authorities to protect those who work in the media.

My commitment to truth and justice is unwavering, and I will continue to fight for a safe and transparent environment in Tlaxcala and beyond. I thank all those who have supported me on this difficult journey and reaffirm my commitment to freedom of expression and the defence of the fundamental rights of all Mexican citizens. Because we must protect the truth.

This account is only a part of my story, a story of resilience, courage and hope. Despite the challenges, I continue my work, convinced that a better future is possible if we work together to build a just and equitable society for all.

It is time to demand justice and protection for all journalists in Mexico. Impunity and complicity must stop. Our job is to inform, not to risk our lives and the lives of our families. Together, we must demand a real commitment to safety and freedom of the press in our country.

* Alberto Amaro Jordán has suffered attacks in the exercise of his profession, as documented in Amnesty International’s report “No one guarantees my safety”: The urgent need to strengthen Mexico’s federal policies for the protection of journalists, published on 6 March 2024.

This article was originally published in Spanish on animalpolitico.com

Tags: Mexico, Human Rights, Freedom of expression.