A police officer cordons off an area in Mexico City in September 2023. On September 14, a federal judge sentenced José Luis Martínez Aguilera to 27.5 years imprisonment for the 2020 murder of Mexican reporter Israel Vázquez Rangel. (AFP/Valentina Alpide)

CPJ welcomes 27.5-year sentence for murder of Mexican reporter Israel Vázquez

Mexico City, September 18, 2023—The Committee to Protect Journalists on Monday welcomed the 27-and-a-half-year sentence issued for the 2020 murder of Mexican reporter Israel Vázquez Rangel and urged authorities to redouble their efforts to protect journalists and prosecute their attackers.

On Thursday, September 14, a federal judge in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato sentenced José Luis Martínez Aguilera, alias ‘El Pizzero,’ to jail and ordered him to pay reparations for the murder of Vázquez, who was shot while investigating reports of human remains found in a street, according to multiple news reports.  

It was the second verdict in Vázquez’s case, after a 20-year sentence was given to Martín Eduardo López Orozco, alias ‘El Tacones,’ on December 14, 2021, according to news reports. Both convicted men were members of a local criminal gang, those reports said.

The Special Prosecutor for Attention to Crimes Committed against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE) has appealed for Thursday’s sentence to be increased to 35 years because it did not recognize Vázquez’s work as a journalist as a motive for the crime, according to those reports.

“The second conviction for the brutal murder of Mexico’s Israel Vázquez Rangel is welcome news in a country where most criminals who kill journalists escape justice. However, it is troubling that Vázquez’s work as a journalist was not considered as the principal motive for the attack,” said Jan-Albert Hootsen, CPJ’s Mexico representative. “Mexican authorities need to be far more proactive in investigating crimes against the press and ending impunity for those who target journalists.”

Vázquez, a reporter for the El Salmantino news website, was shot at least five times while reporting in the city of Salamanca and died several hours later in hospital.

CPJ has documented 28 unsolved journalist murders in Mexico in the past 10 years—the most of any country on its Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are murdered regularly and killers go free.

Mexico is the Western Hemisphere’s most dangerous country for journalists. In 2022, 13 journalists were killed in Mexico, the highest number CPJ has ever documented in that country in a single year.  At least three of those journalists were murdered in direct retaliation for their reporting on crime and political corruption, while CPJ is investigating the motive behind the 10 other killings