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Journalist killings in Mexico worst in a decade, government says

·1-min read
FILE PHOTO: Mexico's President Obrador attends a news conference in Mexico City

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - This has been the most violent year for journalists in Mexico in at least a decade, with 19 murdered, a senior official said on Wednesday, the latest sign the government is struggling to get a grip on chronic violence.

Alejandro Encinas, deputy interior minister responsible for human rights, said there had been 138 homicides of journalists since 2010, 38 of them since President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took office on Dec. 1, 2018.

"Over the last three years they have rebounded significantly, and this year unfortunately is the year in which the highest number of homicides have been committed in the last decade, reaching 19," Encinas told a regular news conference.

According to the Committee for Protection of Journalists (CPJ), an advocacy group, media professionals are often targeted when their work upsets criminal gangs or corrupt officials.

The 2020 murder total was considerably higher than figures registered by advocacy groups. It followed 17 such homicides last year, Encinas said.

Mexico is often ranked one of most dangerous countries for journalists to work in, and Lopez Obrador took power vowing to bring down violence and step up protections for media workers.

However, murders of journalists have risen in tandem with record levels of homicides in Mexico as a whole, much of it fueled by rampant violence among feuding drug cartels.

The most dangerous states for journalists since Lopez Obrador took office have been Sonora, Guerrero, Veracruz and Michoacan, according to the government's figures.

The failure of authorities to punish perpetrators of murders is regularly cited as a factor behind the violence, and Encinas said only 5% of the murders against journalists committed under the current administration had led to criminal sentencing.

(Reporting by Raul Cortes Fernandez and Anthony Esposito; Editing by Dave Graham)