At least 5 journalists were murdered in Mexico so far in 2022. Mexico accounts for a third of all journalists reported killed in the world this year.
The Mexican non-profit Displaced and Assaulted Journalists reported the assassination of Jorge Luis Camero Zazueta on February 24.
According to local media, ‘El Choche’ managed the Facebook news page El Informativo, reporting on local news in Sonora, a state on the Gulf of California sharing borders with the state of Arizona in the United States. Created in May 2018, the page has 79,000 followers.
Camero started his career in radio stations in Empalme and Guaymas, a neighboring city of 100,000 people, and had recently resumed his work on the Facebook page according to local media. Jorge ‘Choche’ Camero received three shots from two gunmen while at the gym in Empalme at around 8 p.m.
He acted as a secretary for the mayor of Empalme, a city of 40,000 people, since September 2021 until he resigned about a week ago. The reasons was that in early February, a video circulating on social networks claimed he was involved in a criminal network.
In the video, Daniel Palafox Suárez, another former public official, accused several people including Jorge Camero, of being involved with La Plaza, a criminal structure linked to the Caborca Cartel that allegedly attacked Guaymas public officers last November. In the video, Daniel Palafox was handcuffed and seated on a bucket answering questions from an unseen interrogator.
Daniel Palafox, who had criticized the number of disappearances in the state of Sonora, was reported missing on January 28 and found dead a week later.
The reasons of Jorge Camero’s death, and whether it was related to journalism, remain unclear.
“This is related to street level drug sales or possible criminal groups,” State Attorney General Claudia Contreras Córdova said in a video statement. Her office excludes freedom of expression as the reason of his death.
Nevertheless, Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist.
5 to 7 journalists killed in Mexico in 7 weeks
He may be considered as the seventh journalist killed in Mexico in the last 7 weeks, depending on media reports.
The first Mexican journalist brutally deprived of life in 2022 was José Luis Gamboa, stabbed to death in the state of Veracruz on January 10. Two other murder attempts against journalists failed this year. The death of Marco Ernesto Islas, son of journalist Marco Antonio Islas, is sometimes not reported as the murder of a journalist as he was managing his father’s news portal more than reporting news recently.
Reporters Without Borders reports 5 deaths of journalists in Mexico as of Friday, out of the 14 killed in the world so far in 2022. A third of journalist killings are in Mexico, more than any other country this year.
Since 2000, 150 journalists have been killed in Mexico for causes possibly related to their job according to Article 19, a non-profit organization advocating for freedom of speech.
During the presidencies of Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto, 48 and 47 journalists were murdered during their six-year terms. With Andrés Manuel López Obrador, in office since December 2018, already 32 journalists have been killed.
The death count is also higher than during the entire mandate of Vicente Fox, Mexican president between 2000 and 2006.
AMLO relations with the press, who organizes a daily press briefing, have deteriorated during his mandate.
U.S. expressed concerns about the threats on Mexican journalists
Early in his administration López Obrador appeared to enjoy jousting with reporters in his daily briefings. But as critical reporting of his administration increased, his attacks have grown more pointed, especially against several high-profile journalists who have questioned aspects of his administration.
Lately, he described the journalist Carlos Loret de Mola as “a mercenary, a hitman, corrupt” and discarded his moral authority to ask questions because what he earned was not public. Carlos Loret took the attacks as a response of his reports on the luxurious lifestyle on AMLO’s son, while the president pictures himself as a simple man.
On February 24, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted his concern about the killings of journalists in Mexico: “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.”
And the next day, AMLO appeared to take the comment as a criticism of Mexico’s efforts to investigate on the crime and protect journalists. The president suggested Blinken received wrong information from the CIA, FBI or DEA. “They’re tricking him,” he said. “We don’t tolerate the impunity of anyone.”
Six people had so far been arrested in three of the recent journalist killings according to the Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard. On Friday, five other people were arrested regarding the investigation on the murder of photojournalist Margarito Martínez last January.
However, Mexico’s undersecretary of the interior for human rights, Alejandro Encinas, has said that the impunity rate in the killings of journalists and human rights activists is above 90%.
In January, Encinas even estimated that 52 journalists have been murdered during the current administration and only five cases were resolved. Public officials also create a threatening atmosphere as 45% of attacks on journalists and human rights defenders come from local authorities according to Encinas.
On Wednesday, López Obrador said journalists “lie like they breathe”.
Update March 6: Another journalist, Juan Carlos Muñiz, was killed on March 4 in the state of Zacatecas. He covered news in Fresnillo, a city with some of the highest criminal rates in the country. He also drove a taxi to make ends meet.