Mexico City, November 9, 2020 – The Committee to Protect Journalists called on Mexican authorities today to undertake a swift and credible investigation into the killing of journalist Jesús Alfonso Piñuelas, founder of Zarathustra Press and El Shock de la Noticia, who was shot dead November 2 in Cajeme, in the northern Mexican state of Sonora.
According to news reports, Piñuelas, 43, was driving his motorcycle in Cajeme, a municipality some 150 miles south of the state capital of Hermosillo, when he was shot and killed instantly, reports said.
On November 8, newspaper El Sol de Hermosillo reported that a suspect in the murder pled guilty in an abbreviated trial, similar to a plea bargain. The report said that the killer, identified by the Sonora state prosecutor’s office in a November 6 Facebook statement as Francisco Bernardo “N,” alias “El Foca,” was sentenced to 25 years in prison. The article did not elaborate on the motive.
“The brutal shooting death of Jesús Alfonso Piñuelas underscores Mexico’s abysmal status as one of the world’s deadliest countries for reporters,” said Jan-Albert Hootsen, CPJ’s Mexico representative. “Mexican authorities must continue to investigate this shocking killing and its causes even though the man who pulled the trigger has been caught and sentenced.”
According to Poncho Margaro, a former coworker and personal friend, who spoke with CPJ via phone, Piñuelas founded Zarathustra Press, which reports via Facebook, and El Shock de la Noticia, which reports via weblog. According to CPJ’s review of his recent news stories, Piñuelas reported on crime and security in Cajeme, including the murder of a municipal police officer for Zarathustra Press.
Margaro told CPJ that he had last spoken with Piñuelas the week before his killing, and that he was unaware of any threats against his life. He said that Piñuelas often responded to tips, suggesting that the journalist may have gone to the neighborhood where he was shot to follow up on reports of gunshots in the area a few hours before.
Cajeme has recently seen an uptick in violence as criminal gangs have been engaged in a turf war in the city, according to news reports. On May 16 of this year, Jorge Armenta Ávalos, founder of El Tiempo de Medios Obsonand Ultima Palabra, two publications in Ciudad Obregón, was shot and killed in Cajeme, as CPJ documented at the time. His murder remains unsolved.
A spokesperson for the Sonora state prosecutor’s office did not respond to a request by CPJ for comment sent via messaging app.
Mexico is the deadliest country for journalists in the world. According to CPJ research, at least four journalists were killed in direct relation to their work in 2020, more than any other country. CPJ is investigating at least one other killing to determine the motive.