Violence against Mexican journalists is spiralling as the July 1 national elections approach, the NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF) warns in a new report published Monday.
Forty-nine attacks were registered between January and May: four against media personnel and 45 against journalists in the field, 16 of them women and 29 men.
RSF representative Balbina Flores, however, said the NGO believes the real figure is far higher and that the media prefers to "remain silent to protect their safety," under-reporting such incidents.
"As the elections get closer, the number of attacks increases," the NGO said, noting that May has so far been the most violent month this year.
The report comes just weeks after Mexican journalist Hector Gonzalez Antonio was found beaten to death on a gravel side street in Ciudad Victoria on May 29, 2018.
Gonzalez was the sixth journalist assassinated this year, preceded by Alicia Diaz Gonzalez a week before in Nuevo Lion and Juan Carlos Huerta in Tabasco on May 15.
"The press is truly a risk for corrupt political power," said Sara Mendiola, director of Civic Proposal.
Since 2000, over 100 media workers have been murdered in Mexico, which is now considered the most deadly state for working journalists. The majority of the killings remain unsolved with most perpetrators escaping justice completely.
Per the recent study, as the "electoral process approaches, the aggression increases," Flores predicted during a press conference in Paris.
After the murder of Diaz, the National Commission for Human Rights called for the government to defend journalists. According to rights group Article 19, violence against journalists is not only linked to organized crime and drug trafficking, but also to state officials, who have organized or participated in 48 percent of the 1,986 reported acts of aggression.
Journalists are not the only targets: since September 2017, 111 political candidates from various parties have been murdered ahead of the July 1 national elections, in which Mexicans will choose federal and local authorities.