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Bota

Kidnapped and threatened, the well-known journalist returns to her duties

Kidnapped and threatened, the well-known journalist returns to her duties

Mexican journalist Maria Teresa Montaño has survived death threats and a kidnapping. As Voice of America correspondent Cristina Caicedo Smit reports from Toluca, Mexico, the journalist refuses to give up her duty to investigate corruption and wrongdoing. The Committee to Protect Journalists has honored him with the International Press Freedom Award

Persistence, this is the word Maria Teresa Montanos uses when asked why she still continues to work as an investigative journalist in Mexico.

"Despite the dangers of the last few years, I have returned to complete my mission," journalist María Teresa Montaño tells VOA.

With 30 years of experience, the journalist covers issues of corruption, local government and politics for her news website The Observer in the city of Toluca. But her writings are not welcomed by everyone. In August 2021, she was kidnapped by three armed men.

The attackers threatened the journalist for three hours, forced her to withdraw money at several ATMs and took all her equipment. She says her attackers warned her not to report the kidnapping.

"I had to leave the country because they threatened to kill me," she tells the Voice of America.

In Mexico, the kidnapping of journalists has become commonplace. In November, three journalists were kidnapped in the state of Guerro and held for several days.

One of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, Mexico recorded over 12 deaths by the press in 2022 alone, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ for short.

"We continue to see public officials who do not respect the freedom of the press in the country. In Mexico, organized crime groups are willing to use extreme violence to protect their interests, and for them, journalists are a legitimate target," says Jan-Albert Hootsen with the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Lack of justice increases the risks, he says.

"In Mexico, there is no one convicted for more than 95% of the crimes against journalists, according to the data we recorded."

The abduction of journalist Montano still remains unanswered even though she reported it to state officials and the special office for the protection of human rights and journalists, who assigned her a bodyguard, at least during the time in Toluca city. But the journalist says she is worried despite the guard to protect her.

After the kidnapping she took her children away from Toluca and left Mexico for a while.

"I got into a deep depression and I couldn't go on anymore. I had moments so heavy that I couldn't get out of bed."

But a sense of vocation and her new news and fact-checking site, The Observer, saw her pull herself together.

"After the kidnapping, I thought that journalism was over for me, but then I realized that it was a calling. Many things were waiting for me. A news portal and a team waiting for my return and I had to go back. I wanted to come back to finish what I had started."

Another motivation, her commitment to the truth.

"It is necessary to encourage a free press that makes public the issues that matter. The deviation of politicians, what mistakes they make and who they are, so that people can make the right decisions".

A few weeks ago, the Committee to Protect Journalists honored her with the International Press Freedom Award in recognition of her courageous reporting./ VOA

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