04/21/12 – On Friday, April 20, gunmen stormed a bar in the city of Chihuahua, Chihuahua and opened fire on patrons, killing 15 people between the ages of 25 and 72, two of whom were journalists. 11 victims died on site at Bar Colorado, while the remaining four passed away en route to the hospital. The Chihuahua State Prosecutor’s Office (Fiscalía del Estado de Chihuahua), who is investigating the crime, suggested that the incident was likely linked to drug-related violence, specifically to organized crime gangs involved in car theft. According to Spokesman Carlos González, “the attackers could have been searching for members of a rival gang involved in car theft,” given not only that the gunmen entered the bar and asked about the whereabouts of a few individuals before firing on the crowd, but that authorities also found three stolen vehicles at the scene of the crime. 30 shell casings from a 9-milimeter gun, a 40-caliber, and an AK-47 were also gathered as evidence from the scene.
The two journalists killed in the shooting were Héctor Javier Aguirre Salinas García, a former radio reporter affiliated with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI) and acting director of a local Chihuahua news website (futuro.mx), and Francisco Javier Moya Muñoz, a news director for a Ciudad Juárez radio station. Authorities reported that their deaths were “circumstantial,” and not a result of their being targeted for their profession. However, various journalist organizations seem to think otherwise as they have immediately called on the government to thoroughly investigate Salinas García’s and Moya Muñoz’s deaths. Said Roberto Delgado, the president of the Association of Journalists in Juárez, “The crime against our colleagues… and the rest of those killed in the attack cannot go unpunished.” He continued, “We will be very much on the lookout for what the State Prosecutor’s Office does to clarify this awful crime.”
Regardless of whether the journalists were targeted or “circumstantial” victims, Salinas García and Moya Muñoz add to the growing statistics of violence against journalists in Mexico. Mexico has an incredibly high number of journalists killed, kidnapped, or disappeared over the years–over 75 since 2000, and over 45 of which have occurred since 2006 when the Calderón administration took office. Mexico is also consistently ranked as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists to work, with CPJ ranking it in fifth place for 2011 only behind Pakistan, Iraq, and Libya, and tied with Brazil.