The director of Monitor Michoacán, where the late Roberto Toledo worked, said his team "has suffered weeks, months of death threats"

Shock in Mexico: fourth journalist murdered in less than a month

AP/EDUARDO VERDUGO - A woman places photos of murdered journalists during a nationwide protest against the murder of journalists Lourdes Maldonado and freelance photojournalist Margarito Martinez, in Mexico City, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022

On Monday, the Mexican authorities reported the murder of journalist Roberto Toledo after he was shot several times in the state of Michoacán. This event has once again shocked the Mexican journalism sector which, with this recent murder, has suffered the loss of four journalists in the last month, all of whom have died violent deaths.

"Today, finally, the threats have been carried out and one of our colleagues lost his life at the hands of three people who arrived and shot him in a cowardly and dastardly manner. We are not armed, we do not carry weapons, our only defence is a pen," said Armando Linares, director of Monitor Michoacán, the newspaper where Roberto worked.

The incident took place in the car park of the Monitor Michoacán building in the municipality of Zitácuaro. Roberto Toledo had just finished recording the video column of the newspaper's vice-director, Joel Vera, when three armed men shot him repeatedly, seriously wounding him in the abdomen, thorax, arm and collarbone. Despite being taken to hospital, the 55-year-old Mexican journalist died of his wounds a short time later.

Jesús Ramírez Cuevas, coordinator of Social Communication of the Presidency, published on Twitter the actions of the government, which will work "together with the state and municipal governments to clarify the case; we will not allow impunity. Let's defend freedom of expression and the right to information".

Un periodista se encuentra cerca del féretro de la periodista mexicana Lourdes Maldonado que fue asesinada en la ciudad fronteriza norteña de Tijuana, durante su velatorio en Tijuana, México
Judicial investigation

The authorities are investigating the events, the Michoacán state attorney general's office (FGE) is keeping several avenues of investigation open, as they do not rule out the possibility that Roberto Toledo was murdered because of his work as a lawyer, as he also worked with a law firm, in addition to his work as a reporter.

For his part, the director of Monitor Michoacán firmly pointed out the cause of his colleague's murder, affirming that it was a consequence of his journalistic work, "for exposing corrupt administrations and corrupt officials and politicians, today that led to the death of one of our colleagues", said Linares, who assured that his team "has suffered weeks, months of death threats". 

At the scene of the crime, two banners from a group dedicated to drug trafficking wrote threats against lawyers dealing with cases of a rival criminal group, according to EFE news agency. Zitácuaro is a municipality marked by violent fighting between gangs such as the Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG), La Familia Michoacana (former), La Nueva Familia Michoacana (split from the former), Los Caballeros Templarios (CT) and Los Correa.

Velas colocadas cerca de los retratos de los periodistas asesinados, mientras la gente asiste a una vigilia para protestar contra el asesinato de periodistas en días pasados, fuera de la Secretaría de Gobernación en la Ciudad de México, México, 25 de enero de 2022
Fourth murder in less than a month

Since 2000, the NGO Article 19 has documented 148 murders of journalists in Mexico, not counting this latest case. Of the total, 136 are men and 12 are women. Of these, 47 were recorded during the previous term of President Enrique Peña Nieto and 29 in the current administration.

Toledo's murder comes after a week of nationwide protests over the recent murders of journalists in Mexico, with four journalists killed so far this year. On 10 January, José Luis Gamboa Arenas was stabbed in an alleged attack in Veracruz. Also, in Tijuana, photojournalists Margarito Esquivel and Lourdes Maldonado, who was involved in a legal dispute over "labour issues" with former governor Jaime Bonilla.

Una foto del fallecido fotoperiodista Margarito Martínez, quien fue asesinado la semana pasada en Tijuana, es colocada junto a un letrero que dice "Prensa, no dispares", en una valla que protege el perímetro del Palacio Nacional, como parte de una protesta de periodistas que exigen protección del gobierno federal
Ineffective measures

The murder of Lourdes Maldonado triggered protests from the communications sector, after a video came to light in which the same journalist asked President López Obrador for help: "I also come here to ask for support, help and labour justice, because I even fear for my life", said Maldonado in 2019, referring to her conflict with the current ex-governor of Baja California, Jaime Bonilla, of Obrador's party.

The murders have highlighted the ineffectiveness of the government's protection measures. Mexico has a Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which allows access to surveillance and protection for those who request it, although on several occasions the mechanism has failed to save the life of the journalist who requires it.

The verbal confrontations and questioning that López Obrador has made to the press have contributed to increasing the climate of tension in the country. Just this Monday, the Mexican president described journalist Carlos Loret de Mola as a "mercenary" for publishing an article about the luxurious house where Obrador's son lives in the United States.

"But this gentleman, Loret de Mola, who is a mercenary, made a fuss because he thinks we are equal. No, no. He was and continues to be at the service of the power mafia," the president said.

America Coordinator: José Antonio Sierra.