Mexico City, May 6, 2019--Mexican authorities must immediately and transparently investigate the killing of journalist and political activist Telésforo Santiago Enríquez, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Enríquez was found shot dead the afternoon of May 2 just outside the city of Juchitán, in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, according to news reports.
Enríquez was the founder and director of El Cafetal, a community radio station based in the town of San Agustín Loxicha, approximately 400 miles southeast of Mexico City. He was also politically active and a member of the Section 22, a local chapter of the National Coordinator for Education Workers, a teachers' union, according to news reports.
"With the killing of Telésforo Enríquez, the Mexican media community mourns yet another victim of senseless violence," said CPJ Mexico Representative Jan-Albert Hootsen. "If state and federal authorities are serious about their declared commitment to protecting the country's press, they must act immediately to investigate his murder, establish the motive, and bring his killers to justice."
Enríquez's body was found in the afternoon of May 2, at approximately 4:00 p.m., in San Agustín Loxicha, according to a statement by the Oaxaca state attorney general's office released May 3 on social media. The statement said the body of the journalist had been found with several gunshot wounds and that Enríquez had died on the spot, inside his vehicle.
The statement did not provide any further information on the number, identity, or motive of the attackers. Alejandro Peña, who heads the office of the state attorney general in the region where San Agustín Loxicha is located, declined to provide further information to CPJ over a messaging app today and referred to the main office in the state capital, Oaxaca de Juárez. Several calls by CPJ to that office today were unanswered.
Ricardo Sánchez Pérez del Pozo, who heads the office of the Federal Special Prosecutor for Attention to Crimes Committed against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE) in Mexico City, told CPJ today that his office had not opened a separate, federal investigation, but that he had been in communication with Oaxaca state authorities about the killing and that his office "will provide assistance when requested."
Omar Gazga, a reporter based in Oaxaca, told CPJ that Enríquez founded El Cafetal approximately five years ago, and that he had run several unsuccessful campaigns for mayor of San Agustín in recent years. According to Gazga and news reports, the editorial content of El Cafetal focused mostly on the Zapotec culture and language, which is dominant in the region. CPJ was unable to retrieve any recent content of the radio station, which does not appear to have a presence online.
Gazga told CPJ that Enríquez told local colleagues that he had received death threats three months ago, allegedly from the brother of San Agustín Mayor Pedro Vázquez, allegations that have also circulated on social media accounts reporting on the killing since May 2.
CPJ was unable to confirm those threats. Several messages sent to family members and colleagues of Enríquez remained unanswered. Several phone calls to Mayor Vázquez also went unanswered. CPJ was unable to find contact information for the brother of the mayor.
A spokesperson for the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which provides journalists in situations of risk with protective measures, told CPJ today that Enríquez had not reported any threats to his institution and was not incorporated in any federally sanctioned protection program. He asked to remain anonymous to be able to speak of the matter.
Enríquez is the fourth radio reporter killed in Mexico this year, at least one of whom was killed in relation to his work, according to CPJ research. Rafael Murúa, Jesús Ramos, and Santiago Barroso, who all hosted radio shows in different parts of the country, were killed on January 20, February 9, and March 15, respectively. CPJ determined that Murúa was killed for his journalism, and is still investigating to determine whether the other two killings were work-related.
Mexico is the most dangerous country for journalists in the Western Hemisphere, according to CPJ research. Last year, at least four journalists were murdered in the country in direct retaliation for their work.