Mexico City, August 22, 2016 - Authorities in the eastern Mexican state of Veracruz should credibly investigate a shooting attack against freelance journalist Lucia López Castillo and bring those responsible to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. López Castillo was shot last night in front of her home in Poza Rica, north of Veracruz's state capital, Xalapa.
According to news reports and a friend of the victim, who spoke with CPJ on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, a single masked gunman approached López Castillo yesterday evening at approximately 10.30 p.m. The reporter tried to enter her home, but her assailant, whose identity is unknown, grappled with her and shot her once in the torso before fleeing in a taxi parked nearby.
"Swiftly bringing Lucia López Castillo's assailant to justice would send a strong message that journalists cannot be attacked with impunity," Carlos Lauría, CPJ's senior program coordinator for the Americas, said from New York.
Veracruz has become one of the most dangerous areas for journalists in Latin America. According to CPJ research, at least six reporters have been killed in direct retaliation for their work in Veracruz since governor Javier Duarte de Ochoa assumed office in 2010. CPJ is investigating another 10 murders of journalists to determine whether they were in relation to the victims' work. Most recently, reporter Pedro Tamayo was killed in Tierra Blanca, roughly 200 miles (230 kilometers) south of Xalapa. CPJ is still investigating to determine if his death was related to his work as a journalist.
"Javier Duarte's term as governor of Veracruz will come to an end on November 30, but he will leave behind a permanent shadow in the lives lost and journalists silenced during his six-year term," Lauría said.
Friends and co-workers told CPJ that López Castillo is currently in stable, though serious condition. She was brought to a local clinic in Poza Rica and had one of her kidneys removed because of damage caused by the bullet, which also caused extensive damage to her intestines. Her condition is complicated by the fact that she suffers from diabetes.
The Veracruz State Commission for the Attention to and Protection of Journalists (CEAPP) has been in touch with the reporter. "She is currently conscious and stable, and we have initiated procedures to provide her with police protection," Executive Secretary Geiser Manuel Caso Molinari told CPJ in a telephone conversation.
Caso Molinari said that the motive for the attack is unclear at that the authorities would refrain from commenting further on the circumstances of the shooting until they have more information. "The health of the victim has priority right now," he told CPJ.
López Castillo, 42, writes for Cara Política, a bi-weekly magazine, and El Cuarto Poder, a local newspaper, both based in Poza Rica. She also contributes to Pulso Político, a news website based Xalapa.
According to Gloria Mendoza, editor-in-chief of Cara Política, López Castillo writes mostly general-interest news reports about political events and local businesses. Mendoza said López Castillo has steered clear of politically sensitive work and did not cover organized crime.
"We are at loss as to why she was attacked," Mendoza told CPJ in a telephone conversation. "She did not publish anything that could have angered anyone, and I am unaware of any threats she would have received."
Speaking to CPJ over WhatsApp after she had spoken directly with López Castillo and with her family members, Mendoza said the attack may have been a botched robbery attempt.
Mendoza told CPJ that she herself had been the target of a threat two years ago, when an unknown individual threatened to kidnap her daughter, but said that to her knowledge, Cara Política staff had otherwise not been threatened.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The 12th paragraph of this news alert was added after initial publication, in light of new information.