MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A Mexican journalist was killed on Tuesday in the southern state of Tabasco on the Gulf of Mexico amid deepening violence in one of the world’s most dangerous countries for reporters.
Juan Carlos Huerta, a news radio host, was shot dead by armed men as he drove from his home in the state capital of Villahermosa, authorities said. The attackers escaped, officials said.
Huerta had started his own radio station several months ago, two of his colleagues said.
“In the case of Juan Carlos, he was a leading communicator in his field ... and I can say it, a friend. I am deeply saddened,” Tabasco state Governor Arturo Nunez told reporters.
Nunez said roads leaving the capital had been closed as part of attempts to catch the perpetrators.
So far this year, at least four journalists from states marred by worsening violence and the presence of criminal gangs have been killed in Mexico. Last year, 12 reporters were killed, according to free-speech advocacy group Article 19.
Article 19 has said Mexico is the most dangerous country in Latin America for journalists, with the number of killings similar to war zones like Syria.
A proliferation of violent criminal gangs drove the number of all murders in 2017 to more than 28,000, the highest in records going back to 1997.
The spike in violence has battered the popularity of President Enrique Pena Nieto and contributed to support of leftist presidential hopeful Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who leads public opinion polls ahead of elections in July.
Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz; Writing by Michael O'Boyle; editing by Grant McCool