MEXICO CITY — Gunmen killed a journalist in northern Mexico this week, the sixth murder of a journalist in the country just this year.
Jorge Camero, 28, was in a gym in Empalme, Sonora, when he was attacked on Thursday, according to the Sonora state prosecutor, who said authorities found eight shell casings at the scene.
Even before the latest killing, the unceasing violence against journalists in Mexico had led to a diplomatic tit-for-tat between Mexico and the U.S. On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken tweeted his concern about the killings.
”The high number of journalists killed in Mexico this year and the ongoing threats they face are concerning. I join those calling for greater accountability and protections for Mexican journalists. My heart goes out to the loved ones of those who gave their lives for the truth,” Blinken wrote.
Mexico has for years ranked as among the most dangerous countries in the world for local journalists. Nine were murdered last year in Mexico, according to the Committee to Project Journalists, the highest number in the world, with at least three murdered in “direct retribution for their reporting.” Before Camero’s murder, CPJ said five reporters had been murdered this year, but hasn’t concluded how many of them were specifically targeted for their reporting.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Blinken didn’t know what he was talking about.
“Of course it’s very sad that there are assassinations of journalists—we know it. It’s just that we are acting on all these cases, there is no impunity, they are not crimes by the state,” López Obrador said the following morning at his daily news conference.
“And if the chief of the Department of State of the government of the United States intervenes, well I think he doesn’t know, he’s not well informed about this situation because there are no crimes by the state.”
Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard followed up with a letter to Blinken arguing the government was working to solve the cases “to guarantee that there is no impunity.”
CPJ and other organizations that protect journalists say one reason there are so many killings in Mexico is the widespread impunity the killers enjoy. Last month, Alejandro Encinas, a deputy minister charged with human rights issues, acknowledged that 90 percent of the killings of journalists during the first three years of the López Obrador presidency remained unsolved.
López Obrador frequently attacks the media and in recent weeks stepped it up, despite the continuing murders. He’s called Carmen Aristegui, one of Mexico’s most respected and popular journalists, dishonest, corrupt and “capable of inventing any situation” after she broadcast reporting by a colleague that described the luxury house rented by the president’s son in Houston.
Some of the journalists killed this year had jobs on the side, which may have exposed them to other kinds of threats. Camero reportedly worked as a personal assistant for Empalme’s mayor while also serving as general director of the Facebook-hosted news outlet El Informativo. In recent days the site posted a mix of stories about city-improvement projects, street robberies, and the war in Ukraine.
Like Camero, many of the journalists who were killed worked on their own or for small news outlets that relied almost entirely on Facebook to disseminate their stories. Roughly 60 percent of all Mexicans use the platform, offering journalists tremendous reach they might not have otherwise, especially in small communities where internet access is scarce. But social media also makes these journalists particularly vulnerable to threats, because they often mix personal and professional videos and posts that make it easy to track them down.
Still, several of the journalists murdered this year were relatively well-known. Tijuana journalist Lourdes Maldonado, who was gunned down on Jan. 23 inside her car, had publicly asked López Obrador for his support because she feared for her life, she said at his daily press conference in 2019. Authorities have arrested three people accused in her murder but haven’t offered a motive.
On Jan. 17, photojournalist Margarito Martínez, who sometimes collaborated with international outlets, was killed at his home in Tijuana. On Friday, authorities arrested five suspects in his murder, according to Secretary of Defense Luis Cresencio Sandoval. The suspects were found with a Smith & Wesson pistol and an AR-15 rifle, and tests are being run to see if they were involved in Martínez’s death. Authorities haven’t given any motive for the killing.
Roberto Toledo, a camera operator and video editor for Monitor Michoacán, was shot to death by gunmen in the western state of Michoacán on Jan. 31. A video obtained by the newspaper El País shows two assassins approaching him outside the office where he worked, following him inside where they shot him and then fled.
Two men shot and killed journalist Herber López in the southern state of Oaxaca on Feb. 10. A day earlier, he had published a short article on his news site’s Facebook page accusing a former municipal official of corruption.