Mexico’s President Faces Inquiry for Disclosing Phone Number of Times Journalist

Mexico’s President Faces Inquiry for Disclosing Phone Number of Times Journalist

Mexico’s freedom of information institute, a government agency, said on 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 who had reported on an inquiry into potential links between drug traffickers and close allies of the president.

The investigation centers on a move by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador during a televised news conference on Thursday that left many aghast in Mexico, which is 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 by Natalie Kitroeff, The Times’s bureau chief for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, in which she requested comments 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 identifying Ms. Kitroeff by name, Mr. López Obrador 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 the journalist for The Times follows weeks of attacks on a ProPublica reporter, which came after the news organization published a story last month detailing an earlier investigation into accusations that drug cartels had donated millions to Mr. López Obrador’s first presidential campaign, in 2006, which he lost. The president called the reporter, Tim Golden, a “pawn” and “a mercenary in the service” of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Separately, The Times’s report on Thursday revealed a more recent inquiry during Mr. López Obrador’s presidency, which started in 2018, in which American law enforcement officials examined claims that confidants of Mr. López Obrador had received millions of dollars from drug cartels. 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 news conference.

The United States never opened a formal investigation into Mr. López Obrador, 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.