Police officers are seen next to the vehicle in which journalist Fredid Román was shot and killed in Guerrero, Mexico, on August 22, 2022. (AFP/Jesus Guerrero)

Mexican journalist Fredid Román shot and killed in Chilpancingo

Mexico City, August 24, 2022 – Mexican authorities must immediately investigate the killing of journalist Fredid Román Román, identify and apprehend those responsible, and determine whether the attack was related to his work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.

On Monday, August 22, two unidentified attackers on a motorcycle shot and killed Román, founder of the La Realidad newspaper and a columnist for the Vértice de Chilpancingo newspaper, as he left his home and entered his car in Chilpancingo, the capital of the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, according to multiple news reports and a statement by the state prosecutor’s office.

In that statement, the prosecutor’s office said it did not rule out any motive, and mentioned that Román’s son Bladimir was also shot and killed on July 1. The statement said authorities were investigating whether the attacks were related. CPJ was unable to find any statements by authorities about the motive for the killing of Román’s son.

“The brutal killing of Fredid Román underscores the Mexican government’s utter failure to make the country safe for reporters,” said Jan-Albert Hootsen, CPJ’s Mexico representative. “Only by apprehending Román’s attackers and determining whether he was killed because of his work can Mexican authorities regain some of the trust this year’s catastrophic series of deadly attacks has eroded almost completely.”

CPJ repeatedly called the state prosecutor’s office for comment, but no one answered.

According to Pablo Israel Vázquez, the editor of Vértice de Chilpancingo, Román, 60, had worked for 35 years as a reporter for several regional newspapers in Guerrero.

“He was one of the old guard,” Vázquez told CPJ in a phone interview. “He was a serious man, not someone who would get into trouble.”

Román was also active in politics in the 1990s and early 2000s, serving as a spokesperson for the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution and several institutions within the Guerrero state government, according to the website Enciclopedia Guerrerense.

In 2009, Román founded La Realidad, a newspaper covering current events and politics in Guerrero and Chilpancingo; the paper folded in early 2022 due to financial difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Vázquez.

Román remained active as a columnist for Vértice de Chilpancingo with his weekly “La Realidad Escrita” column, which focused on regional and national politics. In his most recent column, Román wrote critically of the Ayotzinapa Truth Commission, an independent federal body created by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to investigate the mass abduction of 43 students in Guerrero in 2014.

Vázquez told CPJ that he was unaware of any threats against Román’s life. “He sent his columns via email to the newspaper, but I often met him in the streets and he seemed relaxed,” he said.

An official with the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which provides federal protection to journalists, told CPJ that Román was not enrolled in a protection program by the agency. The official asked to remain anonymous, as they were not authorized to comment.

Mexico is the deadliest country for journalists in the Western Hemisphere, according to CPJ research. At least three journalists were murdered in direct relation to their work this year, and CPJ is investigating another 10 killings, including Román’s, to determine the motive.