Mexico City, August 18, 2022–Mexican authorities must undertake a swift, credible, and exhaustive investigation into the killing of journalist Juan Arjón López, determine whether his killing was connected to his work, and bring those responsible to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.
Arjón, the founder and editor of Facebook-based news outlet A Qué Le Temes, was found dead on Tuesday, August 16, in San Luis Río Colorado, a town in the northern Mexican state of Sonora on the U.S. border, according to news reports. According to an August 16 statement by the Sonora state prosecutor’s office (FGE), Arjón’s body was found near an expressway southwest of San Luis Río Colorado. In the statement, the FGE said the reporter appeared to have died from a violent blow to the head.
Arjón, 62, was first reported missing on social media on August 9, according to news reports, although the FGE said on August 15 on Twitter that no official missing person report had been filed. The FGE statement said the prosecutor had not yet ruled out any line of investigation.
On Wednesday, August 17, San Luis Río Colorado municipal authorities told local media that a suspect was arrested for his alleged involvement in the abduction and killing of Arjón and that the vehicle allegedly used while carrying out the crime had been located on August 3. According to the statement, the vehicle had been reported stolen in the U.S. state of California. No further details about the identity of the suspect of the motive for the killing were given.
Several telephone calls by CPJ to the FGE for comment on August 16 and 17 were not answered.
“The tragic and brutal killing of Juan Arjón López is only the latest in a year that is already one of the deadliest in recent history for the Mexican press,” said Jan-Albert Hootsen, CPJ’s Mexico representative. “Although some arrests have been made in earlier cases of press killings this year, an ongoing climate of impunity continues to fuel these attacks. Mexican authorities must conduct a swift and thorough investigation into Arjón’s killing and bring those responsible to justice.”
According to Humberto Melgoza, the editor of San Luis Río Colorado-based website Contraseña and a friend of Arjón’s, the reporter started the outlet on Facebook several months before his death. Melgoza added that Arjón had worked on and off as a journalist in the past and had been a collaborator for OmniCable, a now-defunct radio station, and that he combined his work as a reporter with delivering meals for a local restaurant.
According to Melgoza, Arjón had a troubled private life and lived in a substance abuse rehabilitation center in San Luis Río Colorado at the time of his death. “He was a good guy, though,” Melgoza told CPJ. “He was very lively, very sociable.”
Arjón reported on a wide range of subjects for A Qué Le Temes, including crime, local politics and the environment. The most recent articles were posted on August 2 and included two short news stories about the arrests of suspects of robberies and theft. Although his disappearance was not widely reported until August 9, CPJ was not able to verify whether he had stopped writing articles after August 2 or whether he disappeared on or shortly after that date.
Melgoza told CPJ that San Luis Río Colorado has recently seen a spike in violence, which he attributed to criminal gangs. “There is a lot of presence of drug traffickers here, lots of shootouts,” he said. According to local newspaper La Tribuna de San Luis, the municipalty had the fifth highest homicide rate in Sonora in 2021.
Mexico is the deadliest country in the Western Hemisphere for journalists. According to CPJ research, at least 11 reporters were killed in the country this year. At least three journalists were murdered in retaliation for their work, and CPJ is investigating eight other killings to determine whether they were work-related.