Mexico City, August 6, 2019—The Committee to Protect Journalists called on Mexico’s federal government to swiftly and concretely address its press freedom crisis after a third journalist was killed in a week in Mexico. Jorge Celestino Ruiz Vázquez, a reporter for the newspaper El Gráfico, was shot dead on August 2 in Actopán, a town in the eastern state of Veracruz.
Ruiz was the third reporter killed in Mexico in the past seven days. On July 30, Rogelio Barragán was found murdered in Morelos state. On August 2, Edgar Alberto Nava was shot dead in Guerrero state. CPJ is investigating to determine if they were killed in retaliation for their work.
Unidentified attackers shot Ruiz in a convenience store that he owned in La Bocanita, a small town in Actopán, at approximately 9:15 p.m, according to police statements given to the Mexico City paper El Universal and other news reports.
“As Mexico’s press mourns the killing of another colleague, the inaction of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s federal government is inexcusable,” said CPJ Mexico Representative Jan-Albert Hootsen. “Mexican authorities must do everything in their power to ensure that Jorge Celestino Ruiz Vázquez’s death does not become another murder statistic. This past week must be a catalyst for a comprehensive plan to stamp out impunity.”
In an August 3 statement published on Facebook, the Veracruz state attorney general’s office said it is investigating the shooting. “The necessary actions will be taken to guarantee that there will not be impunity,” the state attorney general, Jorge Winckler, said.
Ruiz was a correspondent for El Gráfico, one of the state’s oldest newspapers, based in the state capital Xalapa. According to Proceso, a Mexico City-based newsmagazine, the reporter covered general news, including local politics, crime, and violence.
News reports and the statement by the state attorney general’s office said that Ruiz had received threats on several occasions over his reporting, although none of the reports specified the nature of the threats or to which stories they related.
News website La Silla Rota, citing the case file that Veracruz state authorities have opened into the killing, today reported that Actopán Mayor Paulino Domínguez and several other municipal officials had allegedly threatened Ruiz. According to La Silla Rota, Domínguez allegedly tried to bribe the journalist to prevent him from publishing critical articles about the municipal government.
CPJ was unable to locate contact details for Domínguez and the municipal government of Actopán did not answer several calls from CPJ on August 5 and 6 seeking comment. CPJ’s calls to El Gráfico also went unanswered and CPJ was unable to find contact information for Ruiz’s family.
La Silla Rota reported that Ruiz was attacked on two occasions last year. On October 14, assailants used clubs to damage the reporter’s vehicle and on November 17, attackers shot at Ruiz’s car and residence. According to the article, Ruiz had reported both crimes to local authorities.
The Veracruz state attorney general’s office said in its Facebook statement that its office had provided the reporter with protective measures and that authorities are investigating why the measures weren’t fully implemented.
Several attempts by CPJ to reach state Attorney General Winckler by telephone remained unanswered on August 6.
Mexico is the most dangerous country in the Western Hemisphere for journalists. According to CPJ research, at least three journalists have been killed in direct relation to their work in 2019. CPJ is investigating four other killings, not including the three last week, to determine whether the motive was related to the journalists’ work.