01/20/22 (written by lcalderon) – The killings of two journalists in Veracruz and Tijuana during the first weeks of the year signals another deadly year for journalists in Mexico. Since the year 2010, at least 163 journalists and media workers have been assassinated in the country, with 22 cases recorded in 2020 alone. While 2021 presented a significant decrease in victims (totaling 9), the first month of 2022 is already remarkably violent against media workers in Mexico.
Digital media director murdered in Veracruz
On January 10, 2022, the director of a digital news outlet and a well-known social media reporter, José Luis Gamboa Arenas, was stabbed to death in Veracruz. Gamboa Arenas was known for covering issues such as violence, government corruption, and organized crime activities in Veracruz. He belonged to a family of distinguished journalists and was the founder and director of the digital newsletter InfoRegio.
Although Gamboa Arenas was killed on January 10, his body was not officially identified until January 14th, when the formal investigation began and the State Commission for the Attention and Protection of Journalists (Comisión Estatal de Atención y Protección a Periodistas, CEAPP) got involved in the case. According to CEAPP, Gamboa Arenas had not previously received death threats and was, therefore, not participating in any state-sponsored protection mechanisms for journalists. These mechanisms were established in response to the increased targeted violence against journalists and activists in Mexico, and include measures like surveillance and municipal or state police bodyguards.
Since 2001, the state of Veracruz reported 33 journalists killed, 29 of which were recorded on or after 2011. According to Justice in Mexico’s MEMORIA project and Article 19’s data, Veracruz is the deadliest state for journalists and media workers in Mexico.
Photojournalist killed in Tijuana
Just one week after Gamboa Arenas’ homicide, photojournalist Margarito Martínez Esquivel (also known as “El 4-4”) was shot and killed outside his home in Tijuana on January 17, 2022. Martínez Esquivel was an expert in covering crime and violence in the state of Baja California. For over 20 years, he collaborated with local media such as Semanario Zeta, Cadena Noticias, La Jornada Baja California, Punto Norte, El Imparcial, and international news outlets such as the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and the BBC.
According to El País, witnesses stated that Martínez Esquivel was killed by a neighbor over a personal dispute. However, the journalist received several threats from various sources throughout his career. He was part of the State Journalists Protection Mechanism (Mecanismo Estatal de Protección para Periodistas) after being accused of supporting and publicizing organized crime activities on different Facebook pages. On December 13th, 2020, Martínez Esquivel requested to enter the Federal Journalists Protection Mechanism (Mecanismo Federal de Protección para Periodistas) after receiving threats from a former police officer, who demanded that Martínez Esquivel stopped sharing information about his vehicles and his alleged involvement with local organized crime groups.
Martínez Esquivel is the 5th murdered journalist in the state of Baja California since 2001, and the 4th case recorded in Tijuana.
Violence Against Journalists in Mexico by the Numbers
According to data from Reporters Without Borders, Mexico ranked as the deadliest country for journalists in 2021 (7 victims recorded) for a third year in a row (2020, 8 victims recorded; 2019, 10 victims recorded).
According to Article 19, 25 journalists have been killed during the Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador administration, just over half the total of 47 victims under Enrique Peña Nieto and 48 victims under Felipe Calderon Hinojosa’s 6-year term. In addition, the organization identified Veracruz, Guerrero, and Oaxaca as the states with the greatest number of cases of violence against journalists.
In addition, the Committee for the Protection of Journalists identifies Mexico as the country with the highest impunity rates when it comes to killings of journalists, labeling it as “probably the only place where levels of lethal crime against the press have remained unchanged. Where violence is a constant” (El País) [author’s translation]. CPJ determined that out of the nine official cases of homicides against journalists, only in three cases the prosecutors have been able to find a motive, resulting in stagnant investigations for the rest of the cases because of the institution’s inability to gather enough elements to establish the facts for these violent events. CPJ also concludes that Mexico’s latest administration has not only failed to resolve matters regarding crimes against the press but is also failing to prevent them and protect journalists and activists.
“’Mis carros no me los vuelvas a exhibir’, esta es la amenaza en video contra Margarito Martínez, periodista asesinado en Tijuana.” El Universal, 18 Jan 2022. Accessed 18 Jan 2022. https://www.eluniversal.com.mx/estados/video-esta-es-la-amenaza-en-video-contra-margarito-martinez-periodista-asesinado-en-tijuana
“Matan al periodista José Luis Gamboa en el puerto de Veracruz.” Animal Político, 17 Jan 2022. Accessed 18 Jan 2022. https://www.animalpolitico.com/2022/01/matan-periodista-jose-luis-gamboa-veracruz/
“Periodistas asesinadas/os en México, en relación con su labor informativa.” Article 19. Accessed 18 Jan 2022. https://articulo19.org/periodistasasesinados/
“Quién fue Margarito Martínez, fotoperiodista asesinado en Tijuana.” El Imparcial, 17 Jan 2022. Accessed 18 Jan 2022. https://www.elimparcial.com/mexico/Quien-fue-Margarito-Martinez-fotoperiodista-asesinado-en-Tijuana-20220117-0108.html
“Violations of press freedom barometer.” Reporters Without Borders. Accessed 18 Jan 2022. https://rsf.org/en/barometer?year=2021
Fry, Wendy. “Fotoperiodista Margarito Martínez es asesinado a tiros frente a su casa en Tijuana.” The San Diego Union-Tribune, 18 Jan 2022. Accessed 18 Jan 2022. https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/en-espanol/noticias/bc/articulo/2022-01-17/fotoperiodista-asesinado-a-tiros-frente-a-su-casa-en-tijuana#:~:text=Margarito%20Mart%C3%ADnez%20Esquivel%2C%20’El%204,seguridad%2C%20fue%20asesinado%20el%20lunes.&text=Un%20periodista%20de%20Tijuana%20que,casa%20cuando%20sal%C3%ADa%20a%20trabajar.
Guillén, Beatriz and Lambertucci, Constanza. “Crimen impune: nueve periodistas asesinados en México.” El País, 08 Jan 2022. Accessed 18 Jan 2022. https://elpais.com/mexico/2022-01-09/crimen-impune-nueve-periodistas-asesinados-en-mexico.html
Guillén, Beatriz. “Fuego contra la prensa en México: dos periodistas asesinados en los primeros días de 2022.” El País, 17 Jan 2022. Accessed 18 Jan 2022. https://elpais.com/mexico/2022-01-17/fuego-contra-la-prensa-en-mexico-dos-periodistas-asesinados-en-los-primeros-dias-de-2022.html
Heras, Antonio. “Asesinan en Tijuana al periodista Margarito Martínez.” La Jornada. Accessed 18 Jan 2022. https://www.jornada.com.mx/notas/2022/01/18/estados/asesinan-en-tijuana-al-periodista-margarito-martinez/
Zavaleta, Noé. “El comunicador José Luis Gamboa fue asesinado; criticaba ola de inseguridad en Veracruz.” Proceso, 17 Jan 2022. Accessed 18 Jan 2022. https://www.proceso.com.mx/nacional/estados/2022/1/17/el-comunicador-jose-luis-gamboa-fue-asesinado-criticaba-ola-de-inseguridad-en-veracruz-279243.html
If you would like to read more about organized crime and violence in Mexico, including violence against journalists and other at-risk populations, view our latest special report.
**If you would like to support Martínez Esquivel’s family with the funeral arrangements, please visit their GoFundMe page, “Support for family of slain Tijuana photographer”.