Mexico City, October 6, 2023—Mexican authorities must credibly and transparently investigate the killing of journalist Jesús Gutiérrez Vergara who was shot dead in a city near the U.S. border, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.
Gutiérrez, the founder and editor of Notiface, a Facebook-based news website, was talking with four off-duty policemen in the early hours of September 25 in a residential area in the northern city of San Luis Río Colorado when shots were fired from a vehicle, killing the journalist and one officer, and wounding the other three.
Gutiérrez was not the target but simply a neighbor who died “in a collateral manner,” the state prosecutor’s office said in a statement. CPJ was unable to confirm whether the reporter was working at the time.
On September 26, the city’s Mayor Santos González Yescas said in a video statement that three suspects, who were part of an organized crime gang, had been arrested. The mayor said the attack was directed at the policemen and Gutiérrez had walked up to greet them when they were all shot.
“With the brutal killing of Jesús Gutiérrez, Mexico continues its long and tragic streak as the Western Hemisphere’s deadliest country for journalists,” said Jan-Albert Hootsen, CPJ’s Mexico representative. “Although the arrest of three suspects one day after the attack is a welcome move in a country where the vast majority of press killings go unpunished, it is vital that authorities determine the motive behind the shootings and whether there was any link to Gutiérrez’s work.”
Vergara, 47, was a veteran crime reporter who was well known locally, particularly for his live broadcasts from crime scenes, according to the online newspaper Infobae. Gutiérrez had recently published posts on Notiface about crime in the city, including an article about the arrest of an alleged drug trafficker and videos of police vehicles responding to an incident.
CPJ was unable to find contact information for Gutiérrez’s family and was not aware of any recent threats against the reporter’s life. Similarly, an official with the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which protects reporters at risk, told CPJ that it had not been in contact with Gutiérrez or heard of any threats against him. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to publicly comment on the matter.
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.
CPJ’s calls to the offices of the mayor and of the state prosecutor and Facebook messages to Notiface were not answered.