Fifth journalist killed in Mexico in 2019

Journalist killed in Quintana Roo.

Francisco Romero Díaz was killed on May 16, 2019 in Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo. Source: Notimundo.

05/21/19 (written by kheinle) — Mexico is on pace to be the world’s most dangerous country for journalists in 2019, according to Reporters Without Borders. Five media workers have been killed in Mexico in just the first five months of the year, the most recent coming in the early morning of May 16. Authorities found the body of Francisco Romero Díaz in the popular Playa del Carmen beach town in Quintana Roo. Romero was a reporter with Quintana Roo Hoy and oversaw an online Facebook page called Ocurrió Aquí through which he posted on local stories, politics, and harassment against journalists. He was the fourth journalist killed in Quintana Roo in the past 12 months, reports El Universal, and the sixth nationwide since President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took office in December 2018, according to advocacy organization Article 19.

The 28-year-old reporter and his family faced ongoing threats in response to his coverage of crime and violence. The threats were serious enough that Romero had enrolled in a federal protection program for at-risk journalists, which gave him access to body guards and to a “panic button,” among other tactics, to ensure his safety. The night of his death, however, Romero had reportedly dismissed his guards for the evening, but then received an early morning phone call about a tip on a story at the local club, to which he responded. Authorities found his body soon thereafter with at least two gunshot wounds.

Committee to Protect Journalists’ Mexico Representative Jan-Albert Hootsen responded to Romero’s death. “This brutal murder of Francisco Romero Díaz is a direct consequence of the unabating violence in Quintana Roo and Playa del Carmen, a state and city popular with tourists, but lethal for journalists,” he said. “Mexican authorities must do everything in their power to bring the culprits to justice…”

Violence Against Journalists in Mexico

Mexico has long been one of the most dangerous countries for members of the media to work. In 2018, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), four journalists were killed in Mexico, tying it with the United States in fourth place on their list of most journalists killed. Only Afghanistan (13 journalists killed), Syria (9), and India (5) had more. Justice in Mexico’s Memoria dataset, however, adopts a less conservative measure than CJP, considering cases of both media workers and journalists who may have been victims of intentional homicide for a variety of motives not limited to their reporting. According to that dataset, 16 such individuals were killed in 2018 — four times higher than CPJ’s tally.

The New Criminal Justice System

Despite the danger that Mexican journalists face, the government recently took a step forward in its efforts to protect this vulnerable population. On May 15, a Special District Judge (Juez de Distrito Especializado) in the Center for Federal Criminal Justice (Centro de Justicia Penal Federal) in Xalapa, Veracruz sentenced an individual for threatening a journalist. According to local sources, the defendant, Joaquín R. P., threatened reporter Edgar Juárez Gómez via social media, telephone calls, and text messages in response to a story that Juárez Gómez had published about the defendant’s brother being held in detention. The six-month sentence handed down was the first of its kind for such crimes to be given in Veracruz under the New Criminal Justice System (Nuevo Sistema de Justicia Penal, NSJP).

To read more about the dangers that journalists face in Mexico, check out Justice in Mexico’s annual report released in April 2019, “Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico.”

Sources:

“54 Journalists Killed.” Committee to Protect Journalists. Last accessed March 24, 2019.

Calderón, Laura et al. “Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico.” Justice in Mexico. April 2019.

Barranco Déctor, Rodrigo. “Por primera vez en Veracruz, sentencian a sujeto por atentar contra periodista.” La Silla Rota. May 15, 2019.

“Por amenazar a periodista veracruzano, lo sentencian a 6 meses de prisión.” Noreste. May 15, 2019.

J.M.C. “Asesinado un periodista en Playa del Carmen, el sexto en México en 2019.” El País. May 16, 2019.

“Reportan al quinto periodista asesinado durante el 2019 en México.” El Universal. May 16, 2019.

“Reporter shot and killed in Mexican tourist resort.” Reuters. May 16, 2019.

“Mexican reporter Francisco Romero Díaz shot dead in Playa del Carmen.” Committee to Protect Journalists. May 17, 2019.

Award-winning Journalist Javier Valdez Murdered

Javier Valdez speaking at a book launch in November 2016. Source: The Committee to Protect Journalists

Javier Valdez speaking at a book launch in November 2016. Source: The Committee to Protect Journalists

06/08/17 (written by Lucy Clement La Rosa)- Mexican journalist, Javier Valdez Cárdenas, was shot and killed on a busy street of his hometown, Culiacán, Sinaloa, on Monday, May 15th. So far, the gunmen are unidentified. Valdez was an awarded journalist and author, well-known for his outspoken stance on drug trafficking and organized crime in Mexico. In 2011, Valdez received the International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), as well as the Maria Moors Cabot Prize from the Colombia Graduate School of Journalism. Valdez recently published a book on the dangers of narco-journalism in 2016.

At the time of his death, Valdez was working as a correspondent for La Jornada, a daily newspaper based in Mexico City. In the past, Valdez also worked for Agence France-Presse and cofounded Ríodoce, a weekly newspaper based in Culiacán, capital of the Mexican state, Sinaloa. Sinaloa is home to the Sinaloa cartel, one of the most prominent drug cartels in Mexico, as well as home of the infamous drug lord, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. Ríodoce was independently founded in 2003, and the weekly newspaper focused its efforts on the need for honest reports of drug cartel activities in Sinaloa. With the recent extradition of Guzmán to the United States, Valdez had warned that violence in Sinaloa was rising.

Journalists targeted in Mexico

Valdez is the sixth journalist murdered in Mexico this year. According to 2016 CPJ reports, Mexico ranked 7thOn the other hand, the Justice in Mexico’s Memoria dataset identifies journalists murdered regardless of motive. With this less conservative approach, Justice in Mexico identified the murders of 14 journalists and other media workers in 2016, bringing the total number of journalists murdered from 2000-2016 to 142. According to Justice in Mexico, the Memoria project offers a more pragmatic perspective of violence against journalists in Mexico and seeks to increase the transparency and accuracy of crime reports in Mexico.

The pattern of violence against journalists has been publicly recognized both within and outside of Mexico. Earlier this March, dozens of local journalists protested and demanded justice for Mexican journalists after their former colleague at La Jornada, Miroslava Breach, was murdered. Additionally, the CPJ recently published a special report titled, “No Excuse: Mexico must break cycle of impunity in journalists’ murders.”

Following reports of Valdez’s death, several journalists and government officials continued to convey their outrage, including Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. Nieto condemned the murder over Twitter and expressed his support for “freedom of expression and press.” CPJ representative, Jan-Albert Hoosten, called Valdez’s murder “an attack on independent journalism not just in Sinaloa, but in Mexico as a whole.”

Criticism heightened on Mexican impunity

Local journalists protesting the pattern of violence against journalists in Mexico. Source: Noroeste

Local journalists protesting the pattern of violence against journalists in Mexico. Source: Noroeste

Since Valdez’s death, public backlash concerning the pattern of violence against journalists in Mexico has only grown. Several public protests have specifically demanded that perpetrators be identified and held responsible for their crimes against journalism. The public blames government negligence, pointing to various ominous statistics. As reported by El País, only three cases, out of more than 798 cases of violence (including harassment, assault and homicide) against journalists since 2010, have concluded with convictions. According to The New York Times, out of 117 murders investigated since 2000, only eight cases have been pursued and one solved. President Nieto has been especially criticized for his failure to improve the cycle of impunity in Mexico, despite his repeated promises to protect journalists and freedom of expression.     

Among heightened tensions, journalists continue to be targeted. On the same day of Valdez’s murder, unidentified gunmen shot Sonia Córdoba and her son, Jonathan Rodríguez Córdoba; both were associated with a weekly newspaper in the Jalisco state. Sonia was hospitalized with injuries while her son was killed in the attack. On May 18th, Salvador Adame, a journalist from the Michoacán state, was abducted and has yet to be heard from. Adame had been targeted by organized crime groups several times before his abduction.

On May 24th, under the slogan, “Basta Ya (Enough Already),” around 40 Mexican media agencies, both national and international, signed a joint statement asking the government to honor their promises to end violence against journalists. The agencies included El Pais, El Nacional, Ríodoce, Noroeste, and Animal Político. The statement read, “The right to information guaranteed by the state is another principle of freedom of expression in our country that we demand, today more than ever.” 

Sources

Drug Violence in Mexico: Data and Analysis Through 2016.” Justice in Mexico. March 30, 2017.

Ahmed, Azam. “In Mexico, ‘It’s Easy to Kill a Journalist.'” The New York Times. April 29, 2017.

Crusading Mexican journalist Javier Valdez shot dead in Sinaloa.” The Guardian. May 15, 2017.

Mexican journalist and CPJ awardee Javier Valdez Cárdenas murdered.” Committee to Protect Journalists. May 15, 2017.

Asesinado en México Javier Valdez, el gran cronista del narco en Sinaloa.” El País. May 16, 215.

Award-Winning Journalist Killed in Mexico.” The Atlantic. May 16, 2017.

Mexican drug trade reporter Javier Valdez killed.” BBC News. May 16, 2017.

Separate attacks kill renowned Mexican reporter, wound local magazine executive.” Reuters. May 16, 2017.

Exigen periodistas justicia para Javier Valdez.” Noroeste. May 17, 2017.

El presidente acaba de descubrir que en México matan periodistas.” El País. May 18, 2017.

La desaparición de Salvador Adame indigna a los periodistas del Estado mexicano de Michoacán.” El País. May 23, 2017.

La prensa Mexicana dice “basta ya” a las agresiones contra periodistas.” El País. May 24, 2017.

 

Mexican activist, journalist killed during on-air radio program

journalist, sinaloa, dead, activist

Activist and journalist Atilano Román Tirado. Photo: Univisión.

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.

Sources:

“Asesinan en Sinaloa a locutor cuando transmitia su programa de radio.” Univisión. October 13, 2014.

Associated Press. “Mexican Activist gunned down during Live Radio Broadcast.” CBS News. October 13, 2014.

“Radio host shot dead during live broadcast.” Reporters Without Borders. October 15, 2014.

“Director of Sinaloan newspaper reported missing.” Justice in Mexico. October 18, 2014.

Director of Sinaloan newspaper reported missing

Disappeared newspaper director Sinaloa

Nueva Prensa Director Jesús Antonio Gamboa Urías. Photo: El Debate.

10/18/14 (written by cissel) — Another Mexican journalist has been the target of violence, this time in the state of Sinaloa. Jesús Antonio Gamboa Uriás (39), the head of the politically-charged magazine Nueva Prensa, disappeared the night of October 10, according to a complaint filed by his family with the State Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de Justicia del Estado, PGJE). Speaking from Culiacán, Sinaloa, Iván Gamboa, the brother of Jesús Antonio, stated that the last time his brother was seen was around 11:00pm on October 10 in Ahome, Sinaloa at the local corner store El Paradero owned by Iván. Reports indicate thatJesús Antonio drove away from the store through the streets of the Anáhuac suburb in his own vehicle, and has not been seen since. The PGJE is investigating the case.

Some speculation has risen that Gamboa’s disappearance may be politically charged. Not only does Nueva Prensa report on stories of politics and corruption, but Gamboa, who has had over 18 years of experience in media, was also one of the leaders of a movement in August to repeal a law enacted by the Sinaloan Congress. Also known as the “Ley Mordaza,” or “Gag Law,” the law limited access journalists, and the public at large, have to information related to investigations and judicial cases. Gamboa played an active role in gathering hundreds of protestors to a march on August 7, demanding Congress repeal the law, which it unanimously did several weeks later. Sinaloa is also home to the Sinaloa Cartel and related organized crime violence, thus the PGJE is investigating the motive behind Gamboa’s disappearance, whether political, cartel-related, or other.

Gamboa’s disappearance comes just one month after a story caught national news of the assault of a young female reporter in Guanajuato—an attack allegedly ordered by the town’s mayor and municipal police force. Such events add to Mexico’s already notorious standing as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists to work. In April 2014, for example, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) ranked Mexico in the bottom seven countries worldwide in its effort to punish and investigate crimes against journalists. Specifically related to Gamboa’s case and the previous incident in Guanajuato, organization Artículo 19 reported that of the 330 acts of aggression against journalists reported in 2013, 60% were committed by government officials.

Sources:

“60% de las agresiones a periodistas en México, de funcionarios: Article 19.” CNN México. March 18, 2014.

Witchel, Elisabeth. “Getting Away With Murder.” Committee to Protect Journalists. April 16, 2014.

“Body of kidnapped journalist found outside of Acapulco.” Justice in Mexico. June 7, 2014.

“El Congreso de Sinaloa deroga por unanimidad la ‘ley mordaza.’” CNN México. August 21, 2014.

“PGJE investigating mayor and municipal police of ordering attack on journalist.” Justice in Mexico. September 21, 2014.

Redacción. “Familiares reportan desaparacíon del periodista Jesús Antonio Gamboa Uribás in Sinaloa.” SDP Noticias. October 13, 2014.

Redacción. “Reportan desaparación de periodista en Ahome, Sinaloa.” Proceso. October 13, 2014.

EFE. “Journalist reported missing in northwestern Mexico.” Fox News Latino. October 14, 2014.

Artículo 19. “Autoridades mexicanas deben investigar desaparición de periodista sinaloense.” IFEX. October 17, 2014.