10/27/14 (written by ggaona-hernandez) — A rather brazen and public attack on October 11 left another Mexican journalist and activist dead. The attack occurred on October 11 when two armed men entered a radio station in Mazatlán, Sinaloa, and killed Atilano Román Tirado at point blank range. Román was in the middle of a live weekly radio program he held, “Asé es mi tierra” (“Such is my land”), hosted on Radio Fiesta Mexicana when the gunmen entered. Although the radio recording was seized by authorities as part of the investigation, reports indicate that the other broadcasters and media members in the room yelled “They killed him! They killed him!,” which was broadcast live across the radio stream. Román, who was shot in the face, was rushed to the nearby hospital where he passed away soon thereafter.
Because the gunmen did not turn their weapons on the witnesses in the broadcasting booth, authorities believe this was an attack strictly targeted towards Román because of his role as an activist in Sinaloa, and not because of his work as a journalist. For one, although attacks against journalists are not uncommon in Mexico, attacks against radio journalists are largely outside of the norm. Meanwhile, surveillance videos also show the gunmen following Román by car from his house through Mazatlán to the radio station. Román’s work as an activist included leading the Displaced Persons of Picachos group, which emerged when more than 800 families’ farm lands were flooded by the government following the criticized creation of the Picachos dam in Sinaloa in 2007. Román was an advocate for better treatment and compensation for the families and farmers who lost their land and houses. As Reporters Without Borders writes, “A frequent critic of the local authorities in his programmes, Román… had received threats in the past in connection with his role in organizing marches and protests to demand compensation for the lost land.
The day before Román’s murder, another Sinaloan journalist was targeted when Nueva Prensa director Jesús Antonio Gamboa Uriás disappeared the night of October 10. His body was found 13 days later in Ahome, Sinaloa. Like Román, Gamboa, too, was an activist in the social scene, having played a leading role in repealing the State’s “Gag Law” (“Ley Mordaza”) in August 2014 and demanding journalists’ access to public information and investigations. In response to Román’s murder on the heels of Gamboa’s then-disappearance, Reporters Without Borders Deputy Programme Director Virginie Dangles spoke out, saying, “We urge the authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into Atilano Román’s shocking murder and to bring those responsible to justice.” She continued, “Murdering a presenter in a radio studio while he is on the air shows that violence against journalists knows no limits in Mexico.” Sinaloa Governor Mario López Váldez also chimed in on the matter, proclaiming that justice would be served against those responsible for Román’s murder.