Bogotá, January 29, 2024 — Colombian authorities must thoroughly investigate the killing of journalist Mardonio Mejía Mendoza, determine if he was targeted for his work, and bring those responsible to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.
On Wednesday, January 24, a gunman shot and killed Mejía, founder and director of the independent Sonora Estero radio station in the northern town of San Pedro, at his home, according to Colombian authorities and news reports. A security camera video of the attack shows two men on a motorcycle approaching Mejía as he parks his own motorcycle inside his house. One of the men holding a pistol briefly enters the house and then jumps back on the motorcycle, which speeds away.
“The Colombian authorities must immediately investigate this unacceptable crime against journalist Mardonio Mejía Mendoza and hold those responsible to account as soon as possible,” said Cristina Zahar, CPJ’s Latin America and the Caribbean program coordinator, in São Paulo. “Killing a journalist sends a bad message to society and undermines press freedom in the country.”
Mejía, 67, hosted a daily hour-long program that included reports about crime and law enforcement, Viviana Yanguma, a researcher for the Bogotá-based Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP) told CPJ. She said Mejía was one of the region’s best-known journalists and had received death threats for his reporting in 2013.
Manuel Morón, president of the National Association of Journalists in Sucre department, which includes San Pedro, told CPJ that Mejía often criticized public officials on the air for waste and mismanagement and sometimes received irate phone calls about his coverage, but said he had no knowledge of threats against the journalist.
Mejía’s brother, Ramiro, told CPJ that the journalist was extremely animated on the air, voicing his opinions and adding sound effects, like barking dogs, when he denounced local officials.
Another journalist in San Pedro, who spoke with CPJ on condition of anonymity due to safety concerns, said that Mejía was also a cattle rancher and had received several extortion threats in recent years but had refused to make the payments. He said Mejía worked part-time as an auctioneer and had overseen a cattle auction in San Pedro on the day he was killed.
The day of the shooting, Sucre Governor Lucy García Montes announced a 20 million peso (US$5,100) reward for information leading to the capture of those responsible for the crime.
Hours after the shooting, police arrested Ledinwit Yesith Díaz Mercado in San Pedro. A statement by the Attorney General’s office on Friday said Díaz had been placed in preventive detention as the main suspect in the killing of Mejía. In a video posted on X, formerly Twitter, Fernando Salgado, director of the Attorney General’s office in Sucre department, said Díaz had been accused of aggravated homicide.
Sucre is home to numerous drug-trafficking groups and rising violence, with nearly one homicide per day registered in 2023, according to a FLIP statement. That year, FLIP said, four journalists who covered local politics and environmental issues in Sucre received threats in connection with their work.