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MEXICO CITY: As Mexican journalists prepared to protest the killing of a journalist last week, news broke on Monday that two others were shot dead in the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz, carrying to 11 the number of such murders in the country this year.
The Veracruz State Attorney’s Office said via Twitter that it was investigating the murders of Yessenia Mollinedo Falconi and Sheila Johana García Olivera, respectively director and journalist of the online news site El Veraz in Cosoleacaque.
Veracruz State Attorney Verónica Hernández Giadáns said the investigation would be thorough, including considering their work as journalists as a possible motive for their murder.
The state Commission for the Care and Protection of Journalists said the two women were attacked outside a convenience store.
“We condemn this attack on Veracruz’s journalism profession, give it prompt oversight, and have opened an investigation,” the commission said.
Their murder follows the ninth journalist murder this year, in the northern state of Sinaloa. Prosecutors said on Thursday that the body of Luis Enrique Ramírez Ramos was found on a dirt road near a junkyard in the state capital, Culiacan.
Prosecutors said his body was wrapped in black plastic and died from multiple blows to the head.
Ramírez Ramos’ news site, “Fuentes Fidedignas,” or “Reliable Sources,” said he had been abducted near his home hours earlier.
The dizzying rate of killings has made Mexico the deadliest country for journalists working outside war zones this year.
On Monday evening, Griselda Triana, wife of Javier Valdez, a journalist murdered in 2017, spoke to some 200 journalists gathered at the Angel of Independence monument in Mexico City. The demonstration was originally planned to protest against the murder of Ramírez Ramos and those who preceded him.
Valdez, one of the best-known Mexican journalists killed in recent years, was an award-winning reporter who specialized in covering drug trafficking and organized crime in the northern state of Sinaloa.
“All this time I kept thinking about how easily they can kill a journalist in Mexico,” Triana said. “I feel hurt every time they take the lives of so many colleagues.”
“There is so much anger, outrage, helplessness knowing that we come here to protest the murder of Luis Enrique Ramírez, (it happened) a few days ago in Culiacan, Sinaloa, and the news of the murder of two female journalists in Veracruz comes to us here,” Triana said. “It’s a whirlwind. Crimes against free speech continue to happen every day. We shouldn’t tolerate it. We have the power to ask the authorities to put an end to this massacre of journalists.
The victims, like those killed on Monday, are most often from small, hyperlocal news outlets. El Veraz operated a Facebook page and appeared to post notices almost exclusively of events or public information from the municipality’s government. El Veraz’s motto was “Journalism with Humanity”.
The phone number listed for El Veraz rang on what appeared to be Mollinedo Falconi’s cell phone, according to his message.
Cosoleacaque is just off a major east-west highway in southeastern Veracruz. Organized crime is present in the region and involved in particular in the smuggling of migrants, but there was no immediate indication of who might have been responsible.
Veracruz Governor Cuitláhuac García said a search was underway to find those responsible.
“We will find the perpetrators of this crime, there will be justice and there will be no impunity as we have said and done in other cases,” García said via Twitter.
The journalists had already scheduled a demonstration Monday in Mexico City to protest against the murder of their colleagues, the most recent being that of Ramírez Ramos in Sinaloa.
Mexico’s state and federal governments have been criticized for neither preventing the killings nor investigating them sufficiently.
While organized crime is often implicated in the killings of journalists, small town officials or politicians with political or criminal motivations are often also suspects. Journalists who run small news outlets inside Mexico are easy targets.
Mexico has a protection program for journalists and human rights defenders, but it was not immediately clear whether Mollinedo Falconi or García Olivera were registered.
Participants receive support, such as electronic devices or “panic buttons” to alert authorities of any threats; home monitoring systems; even bodyguards in some cases. Often, authorities recommend journalists under threat move to another state or the capital to mitigate the threat, but that means separating them from their jobs, livelihoods and families.
While President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has promised a “zero impunity” program to investigate these killings, murders of journalists, like most homicides in Mexico, are never solved by authorities. López Obrador also maintained his regular verbal attacks on journalists critical of his administration.
In February, the Inter-American Press Association called on the president to “immediately suspend assaults and insults, since such attacks from the top of power encourage violence against the press.”
In March, the European Union approved a resolution which “calls on the authorities, and in particular the highest levels, to refrain from any communication likely to stigmatize human rights defenders, journalists and media, to exacerbate the atmosphere against them or to distort their words”. of investigation”.
Late Monday, presidential spokesman Jesús Ramírez said via Twitter that the federal and state governments would work together to investigate the killings. “The commitment is that there is no impunity.”