Yet another journalist has been killed in what is shaping up to be an unusually deadly year for media workers in Mexico.
Heber López, director of the online publication Noticias Web was murdered Thursday afternoon in Salina Cruz, Oaxaca. He is the fifth journalist to be killed in Mexico this year.
Two men approached and shot López as he entered a home in the Barrio El Espinal neighborhood, according to the state officials. The two alleged shooters are in custody.
Officials have not ruled out the possibility that his murder was related to his work in journalism: one of the suspects in custody is the brother of a former municipal official in Salina Cruz.
López’s murder comes just days after an armed attack on another Oaxaca journalist. José Ignacio Santiago Martínez, director of Pluma Digital Noticias, was uninjured thanks two the protection of two bodyguards provided by the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Journalists. Santiago entered the protection program for two years, after having been threatened by criminal groups.
López had worked in print media, television and radio for more than 10 years. His portal was known for reporting on government, unions and civil society organizations with a critical eye.
President López Obrador responded to the killing on Friday morning, promising that there would be no impunity in crimes against journalists. He said the deputy minister of human rights, Alejandro Encinas, is working to improve protections for them.
But some think that the president’s own rhetoric — he consistently attacks journalists during his morning press conferences — is part of the problem. And earlier this month, an official with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights urged AMLO to end the weekly ‘media lies’ section of his press conference and instead, send “a strong message in support of journalistic work.”
The other journalists who have been killed this year were Roberto Toledo in Michoacán, Lourdes Maldonado and Margarito Martínez Esquivel in Tijuana, and José Luis Gamboa in Veracruz.
In 2021, the International Press Institute rated Mexico as the deadliest country for journalists, closely followed by Afghanistan.
The killings led to demonstrations in 35 cities around the country, as media workers and supporters demanded justice. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, murders of media workers in Mexico go unsolved 95% of the time.
López’s death also comes as the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the area where he worked in Oaxaca, faces an uptick in violence. After three incidents in the city of Juchitán de Zaragoza left 10 dead, the state government formed a special board of security to look for possible solutions.