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3 journalists murdered in Mexico in 3 weeks amidst cartel investigations

The reporter’s death is only the latest in what has been wave of brutal retaliation against investigative reporters who have been seeking facts in drug-trafficking cartel operations.

January 24, 2022 2:22pm

Updated: January 24, 2022 3:31pm

Mexican law enforcement has confirmed to media outlets that a third journalist has been killed in the country in the span of three weeks. The reporter’s death is only the latest in what has been wave of brutal retaliation against investigative reporters who have been seeking facts in drug-trafficking cartel operations.

Lourdes Maldonado López, a highly respected veteran local reporter was shot and killed on Sunday in the Santa Fe neighborhood of the northwestern border town of Tijuana, just south of San Diego, California, the Attorney General’s Office of Baja California said in a published statement.

Police found the reporter—who told the Mexican president only three years ago in a press conference that she “feared for [her] life”—dead in an automobile Sunday evening. According to the Baja California state prosecutor’s office, Maldonado was attacked “with a firearm while she was in a vehicle” in Tijuana.

“What happened is very regrettable,” said Lopez Obrador, adding that police were still establishing the actual reasons the journalist was killed.

According to Newsweek, “When she said she feared for her life in 2019, she had been embroiled in a lengthy labor dispute with Jaime Bonilla, who was elected Baja California state governor months later as a candidate from Obrador's Morena party.”

Bonilla, who left office in November 2021, owns Primer Sistema de Noticias (PSN), the news outlet Maldonado previously worked for. The reporter won her legal battle against the outlet last week after nine hard fought years, according to a report published by the BBC.

But Reuters reported that a source with background on the case said Maldonado had been registered in the state’s protection program for reporters, which was supposed to guarantee her some police surveillance at her home residence.

Human rights group Article 19 and the International Press Institute have registered 145 murders of journalists in Mexico from 2000-2001 with seven such killings last year. Maldanado’s death makes her the second journalist killed within a week. It happened less than one week after Mexican officials revealed that photojournalist Margarito Martinez, 49, died after being shot in the head outside his residence in Tijuana.

The country is currently considered to be the most dangerous country for reporters outside active war zones, according to a Newsweek report published on the subject. Article 19 condemned the killing in a statement, and The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a campaign group, said on Twitter it was “shocked” by Maldonado’s murder.

“She is the second journalist to be murdered in that city in a week and the third in Mexico during the first month of 2022,” the Committee said in a statement.

Earlier this month, following the killings of Martinez and Gamboa Jan-Albert Hootsen, the Mexico representative for CPJ, said, “With the shocking killing of Margarito Martínez, just days after his colleague José Luis Gamboa was stabbed to death in Veracruz, any hope that Mexico may become a safer place for reporters is evaporating.”

He added: “The country cemented its abysmal status last year as the deadliest country for journalists in the Western hemisphere and nothing will change unless Mexican authorities make it a priority to ensure that reporters in the country aren't killed with impunity.”

According to reports, photojournalist and crime reporter Margarito Martinez Esquivel was also killed execution style by a shot to his head by his home. Earlier this month, another reporter, José Luis Gamboa Arenas was stabbed to death in Veracruz, another Mexican state.

Before his death, Gamboa tweeted online of the drug-trafficking cartels, “The Mexican population still hasn’t grasped how serious this is.” Before his death, Gamboa directed a news website focused on the cartels called Inforegio.

So far, no arrests have been made so far over Maldonado’s killing.