Mexico City, August 30, 2018–The Committee to Protect Journalists urges Mexican authorities to undertake an immediate and credible investigation into the killing of Javier Enrique Rodríguez Valladares, a cameraman for a local television broadcaster based in Cancún, in the southern Mexican state of Quintana Roo. Rodríguez Valladares was shot by unknown assailants around 6:00 p.m. on August 29, according to news reports.
Rodríguez Valladares, 28, worked as a cameraman for Canal 10, a local broadcaster that covers general news in the Cancún area. In a video uploaded to the Facebook page of El Balcón, a local news website, Germán Espiridión, a colleague of Rodríguez Valladares, said the reporter had previously worked for national broadcaster Televisa and that he also bought and sold cars.
“The killing of Javier Enrique Rodríguez Valladares perpetuates a series of deadly attacks on journalists this year in Quintana Roo, a state that until recently was not one of the most dangerous places for journalists in Mexico,” said Jan-Albert Hootsen, CPJ’s Mexico representative. “Federal and Quintana Roo state authorities must urgently take action to guarantee the safety of reporters in the region and halt this alarming trend.”
The murder of Rodríguez Valladares is the third deadly attack on a journalist in Quintana Roo in just over two months. On July 24, Rubén Pat Cauich, co-founder and editorial director of online news resource Semanario Playa News, was shot to death in Playa del Carmen, a resort city south of Cancún. Another reporter for Playa News, José Guadalupe Chan Dzib, was killed on June 29 in the town of Sabán. No suspects have been apprehended in either case.
According to a statement released by the state attorney general’s office on August 29, the attack on Rodríguez Valladares took place at the Supermanzana 29, a residential area in Cancún, a resort city popular among foreign tourists. Rodríguez Valladares was with another male who as also killed and whose identity has not been made public by the attorney general’s office. According to the statement, it is unclear how many people were involved in the attack.
The state attorney general’s office said the cameraman was off duty at the time of the attack and that he was not wearing company clothing, and that it therefore currently does not believe Rodríguez Valladares was killed because of his work as a journalist. It added, however, that it has not discarded any possible motives yet.
One reporter from Cancún, who asked to remain anonymous for safety reasons, told CPJ today that Rodríguez Valladares was apparently in the process of selling a car to the second victim of the attack, and that it was possible that the cameraman was killed as a bystander.
The reporter told CPJ that Rodríguez Valladares covered general news for Canal 10, and that he was well known and liked by his colleagues in the city, a statement echoed by Germán Espiridión of El Balcón in the video he uploaded to Facebook. CPJ was unable to locate recent work on the Canal 10 website that was credited to Rodríguez Valladares.
Canal 10 has been the victim of violence before. On October 24, 2017, unknown attackers fired shots at the building of the television station in Cancún, wounding an employee. No suspects for the attack have been arrested, and the motive behind the attack remains unclear. CPJ reached out to the station’s executives for comment via WhatsApp message today, but did not immediately receive a response.
A spokesperson for the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which operates under the auspices of Mexico’s federal Interior Secretariat, told CPJ today that Canal 10 is not enrolled in a federal protection program. He added that his institution was unaware of any reported threats against Rodríguez Valladares. He asked to remain anonymous to be able to comment.
A request for comment by CPJ to Quintana Roo state Attorney General Miguel Ángel Pech Cen was not immediately answered. Ricardo Sánchez Pérez del Pozo, who heads the office of the Federal Prosecutor for Crimes Committed against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE), told CPJ today that he had opened an investigation into the killing.
Mexico is the deadliest country for journalists in the Western Hemisphere, according to CPJ research. Rodríguez Valladares was at least the eighth reporter killed in the country this year. CPJ has determined that at least three of the journalists killed in 2018 were targeted in direct reprisal for their work.