A Journalist Told Mexico's President She Feared for Her Life. Then She Was Murdered.

The killing of Lourdes Maldonado in Tijuana is the second murder of a journalist in the border city in a week, and the third this year so far across Mexico.
Lourdes Maldonado told Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador that she feared for her life two years before her murder. (Screenshot via Youtube @lopezobrador)

MEXICO CITY—Tijuana-based journalist Lourdes Maldonado stood in front of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in 2019 and asked for his support “because I fear for my life,” she said. Less than two years later, Maldonado was shot to death in the border city.

Maldonado was the second journalist murdered in Tijuana in less than a week and the third killed in total in Mexico during an especially bloody start for the country’s beleaguered press corp this year. 


Maldonado was gunned down Sunday evening inside a car, according to the Baja California state prosecutor’s office. After news of her death broke, video of her March 2019 plea for help to the president was widely shared on social media, with both national and international press expressing outrage at yet another journalist casualty during López Obrador's presidential term.

The video was filmed during López Obrador's daily morning news conference and showed Maldonado specifically call out Jaime Bonilla, a well-known businessman and politician in Baja California and a member of the president’s ruling MORENA party. Bonilla served as a Baja California state senator in 2018, and later became the state governor in November 2019—just over seven months after Maldonado denounced him at the president’s news conference. Bonilla left office in 2021 after serving a two-year governorship.

Maldonado had reportedly been involved in a nine-year-long legal dispute with a local television company owned by Bonilla after her position was unjustly terminated and she was owed back wages. She announced that she'd won the case just days before her murder.

After calling out Bonilla by name at the presidential press conference, Maldonado joined Mexico’s Journalist Protection Mechanism, according to the press freedom organization Article 19. The government protections promise to safeguard threatened journalists and human rights defenders, generally including police protection. Prominent local news magazine Zeta Tijuana—where Maldonado had previously collaborated—said that she joined the protection mechanism after receiving threats from “envoys” of Bonilla.


Bonilla, a fairly prolific tweeter who regularly posts about López Obrador and the Morena party, has not tweeted or made a public comment about Maldonado’s death. Baja California police have yet to make any arrests for her murder, or announce any suspects.

Maldonado’s killing came as Tijuana’s journalist community was already reeling from the January 17 murder of photojournalist Margarito Martínez, who was gunned down at his home in Tijuana. The border city regularly ranks as one of the deadliest cities in Mexico with the highest total murder count in the country.

A third journalist, José Luis Gamboa, was stabbed to death in the eastern state of Veracruz on January 10, while a fourth journalist named Jaime Vargas barely survived an assassination attempt in the city of southeast city of Merida last week.

Although Mexico is widely considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, López Obrador has largely downplayed the issue and blamed it on the failed policies of his predecessors since entering office in December 2018. The journalists who are targeted are mostly local Mexican journalists, many of them working in violent states outside the capital.

During his morning news conference Monday, López Obrador expressed his condolences to Maldonado's family, before acknowledging the previous allegations made by the journalist against Bonilla.

“It’s not possible to automatically link a labor-type lawsuit to a crime, it is not responsible to advance any trial,” said López Obrador, asking the media not to immediately pass judgement on Bonilla.

“A thorough investigation has to be carried out, this investigation is being carried out, like all others.”