Relatives mourn during the funeral of journalist Sheila Johana García Olivera, who was shot dead along with Yessenia Mollinedo Falconi by unidentified gunmen on May 9, 2022. Mollinedo was the founder and editor of El Veraz, where García was recently hired as a camera operator. (Reuters/Yahir Ceballos)

Mexican journalists Yessenia Mollinedo and Johana García shot dead in Veracruz

Mexico City, May 13, 2022 – Mexican authorities should immediately, credibly, and transparently investigate the killings of journalists Yessenia Mollinedo Falconi and Sheila Johana García Olivera, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.

The journalists were getting into their car in the parking lot of a convenience store in Cosoleacaque, a town in the eastern state of Veracruz, when an unknown number of assailants approached and shot them at 4 p.m. on Monday, May 9, according to news reports, which cited eyewitnesses.

Mollinedo was the founder and editor of El Veraz, a news outlet that covers southern Veracruz, where García was recently hired as a camera operator, according to those reports. The Veracruz state prosecutor’s office published a statement on Facebook confirming it has opened an investigation.

Mexico is the deadliest country for journalists in the Western Hemisphere, according to CPJ research. So far in 2022, at least three journalists were killed in direct relation to their work, and CPJ is investigating five other killings. The killings of Mollinedo and García occurred less than a week after the body of journalist Luis Enrique Ramírez was found in the northern Mexican state of Sinaloa.

“While Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador repeatedly claimed that there will be no impunity in crimes against journalists, the shocking and brutal slaying of Yessenia Mollinedo and Johana García only emphasizes his government’s inability to prevent deadly violence against the country’s press,” said Jan-Albert Hootsen, CPJ’s Mexico representative. “It is impunity that fuels these attacks. Only by relentlessly pursuing a thorough and transparent investigation into the killings of Mollinedo and García and ensuring that their assailants face justice can the Mexican government prove that its words will no longer ring hollow.”

Mollinedo previously covered crime and security in the area for El Veraz but stopped doing so after receiving numerous death threats over the past few years, according to the journalist’s brother Ramiro Mollinedo Falconi, who spoke with CPJ by video call. Most of her articles had been taken down out of concern for her safety.

On April 30, Mollinedo received a death threat while covering events in Cosoleacaque on Children’s Day, a Mexican national holiday. Two men riding a motorcycle “approached her and told her that they knew who she was,” Ramiro Mollinedo told CPJ. Later that day, Mollinedo told her brother that she was followed by two men in a taxi who she described as physically imposing and who stared at her in a way that she perceived as threatening.

García was trained by Mollinedo and given a press card on May 4, the brother added. CPJ could not confirm any further information about García or her journalistic background before joining El Veraz.

Last year, unknown attackers shot at García’s residence, Ramiro Mollinedo told CPJ, adding that he didn’t know further details. CPJ could not confirm the attack or any other threats against the journalist.

El Veraz was founded in 2015 and employed at least nine other reporters and editors at the time of Mollinedo’s death, Ramiro Mollinedo told CPJ, who added that the outlet’s website is no longer online due to financial difficulties.

The outlet’s Facebook page has 20,000 followers and recently posted articles about events and press conferences presided by public officials from the Minatitlán area and protests against alleged abuses of power by local authorities. Most of the recent reports do not carry a byline, and none of the articles posted in the last three months were signed by Mollinedo.

The Veracruz State Commission for Attention to and Protection of Journalists (CEAPP), an autonomous institution of the Veracruz state government, did not immediately reply to a request for comment sent via messaging app. CPJ’s several calls to the office of Veracruz state prosecutor Verónica Hernández were unanswered.