Third Mexican journalist killed in 2 weeks

Unidentified individuals shot and killed Israel Vázquez Rangel, a reporter for the El Salmantino news website, while he was reporting from a crime scene in the central Mexican city of Salamanca.

Attorney General Carlos Zamarripa Aguirre said two members of an organized crime group participated in the murder of the reporter, and it is being investigated whether there is a larger conspiracy.

The Attorney General promised that the “cowardly” murder of the journalist will not go unpunished.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said Mexican authorities must conduct a swift and thorough investigation into the killing and redouble their efforts to protect members of the press.

Vázquez was investigating reports of human remains left in a plastic bag, and arrived at the scene of that incident before any police officers; as he prepared to air a Facebook Live stream for El Salamantino, armed individuals in a vehicle approached the journalist and shot him at least five times, according to Ortega and those reports.

He was driven to a nearby hospital and underwent surgery, but died at approximately 1 p.m., those news reports said. The Guanajuato state prosecutor’s office said in astatement that it had assigned a “special team” to investigate the killing.

“The brazen killing of Israel Vázquez Rangel underscores how Mexico is more dangerous for reporters than even war zones,” said Jan-Albert Hootsen, CPJ’s Mexico representative. “Authorities must treat this, and all other journalist killings, as an emergency, and spare no effort in holding its perpetrators to account.”

Vázquez is at least the third Mexican reporter killed in recent weeks: on October 29, TV host Arturo Alba Medina was killed in Ciudad Juárez, in Chihuahua state, and on November 2, journalist Jesús Alfonso Piñuelas was shot and killed in the northern state of Sonora. CPJ is investigating both killings to determine whether journalism was the motive.

Vázquez, 33, had been a reporter at El Salmantino for about three years, Ortega told CPJ. He said that Vázquez mostly covered crime and security in the city, but had not reported receiving any threats. Ortega added that the outlet as a whole had not received any threats.

“It’s not clear whether the attack was directed against Israel because of his specifically being a journalist,” Ortega said. “It’s more likely that the men who shot him simply saw him approach the body and attacked him because of that.”

Vázquez most recently covered sports and security issues, according to El Salmantino’s website. On November 2 he wrote apiece about bodies in plastic bags found throughout Salamanca, allegedly planted by organized crime groups, and on November 6 he uploaded avideo about recent murders in the city.

Verónica Espinosa, a journalist at the local news magazine Proceso who knew Vázquez well told CPJ that he “was very concerned about the situation in the state, very aware of the dangers.”

CPJ called the Guanajuato police for comment but no one answered. An official with the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which operates under the auspices of the Interior Secretariat and provides journalists with protection programs, told CPJ that the mechanism had not been aware of any threats against Vázquez or El Salmantino.

At least eight journalists have been killed this year alone.

Arturo Alba Medina, a 49-year-old journalist and television news show host, was assassinated on October 29, a few minutes after the end of his program in Chihuahua state.

Jesús Alfonso Piñuelas, founder of two media outlets in Sonora state, was shot dead on November 2.

Veteran reporter Julio Valdivia was found in Mexico’s coastal state of Veracruz, in the municipality of Tezonapa, decapitated near railroad tracks in September, according to Córdoba’s Diario El Mundo, the newspaper where he worked.

Mexico is the deadliest country in the world for journalists in 2020; according to CPJ research. More than 100 reporters and other media workers have been murdered since 2000 in Mexico, and only a fraction of those crimes has resulted in convictions.

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