July 14, 2024

Mexico’s freedom of information institute, a government agency, said Thursday that it would start an investigation into the president’s disclosure on national television of the personal cellphone number of a journalist for The New York Times.

The investigation centers on a decision by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador during a televised news conference on Thursday that left many aghast in Mexico, one of the deadliest countries in the world for journalists. At least 128 journalists have been killed in Mexico since 2006, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

During the news conference, Mr. López Obrador read aloud from an email from Natalie Kitroeff, The New York Times’s bureau chief for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. She had requested comment for an article revealing that U.S. law enforcement officials had for years been looking into claims that allies of Mr. López Obrador met with and took millions of dollars from drug cartels.

In addition to railing against Ms. Kitroeff and identifying her by name, Mr. López Obrador publicly recited her phone number.

“This is tantamount to doxxing, illegal by Mexican privacy laws and places reporters at risk,” Jan-Albert Hootsen, the Mexico representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said on X, the social media platform.

Mexico’s National Institute of Transparency, Access to Information and Personal Data Protection, or INAI, said in a statement that its investigation would seek to establish whether Mr. López Obrador had violated Mexican legislation protecting personal data. The institute runs Mexico’s freedom of information system, which was created more than two decades ago to make government operations more transparent and curb abuses of power.

Mr. López Obrador, whose six-year term is coming to an end this year, has long maintained a confrontational relationship with the news media and regularly attacks journalists by name at his morning news conferences.

The move against a journalist for The Times follows weeks of attacks on a reporter for ProPublica, which published a story last month detailing a separate investigation into accusations that drug cartels had donated millions to Mr. López Obrador’s unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2006. The president called the reporter, Tim Golden, a “pawn” and “a mercenary in the service” of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The Times’s article on Thursday revealed a more recent inquiry during Mr. López Obrador’s presidency, which started in 2018. American law enforcement officials spent years looking into claims that confidants of Mr. López Obrador had received millions of dollars from drug cartels while he ran the country. The article cited U.S. records and three people familiar with the matter.

“This is a troubling and unacceptable tactic from a world leader at a time when threats against journalists are on the rise,” The New York Times said in a statement on Thursday in response to Mr. López Obrador’s public release of Ms. Kitroeff’s phone number.

The United States never opened a formal investigation into Mr. López Obrador, The Times reported, and the officials involved ultimately shelved the inquiry after concluding that the U.S. government had little appetite to pursue allegations against the leader of a key American ally.

During their inquiry, U.S. officials identified possible links between the cartels and Mr. López Obrador’s allies and advisers after he took office, but did not find any direct ties between the president himself and criminal groups.