On March 15, 2022, unidentified attackers shot and killed Linares, the co-founder and editor of news website Monitor Michoacán, at his home in the central city of Zitácuaro, according to news reports.
Those reports, citing unnamed police sources, said that the journalist was shot at least eight times and died before he could be taken to a hospital.
The Michoacán state prosecutor’s office confirmed the killing via Twitter, and said that it had opened an investigation under its protocols for crimes against journalists.
CPJ repeatedly contacted Nicolás Maldonado, who coordinates regional prosecutors for the Michoacán state prosecutor’s office via messaging app for comment, but did not receive any replies.
Linares co-founded Monitor Michoacán several years ago, and served as the outlet’s editor and principal author, publishing articles on its website and Facebook page, where it has nearly 100,000 followers, Linares told CPJ in a January 31, 2022, phone interview.
In late 2021, the outlet published several articles accusing former Zitácuaro Mayor Carlos Herrera and former Michoacán Governor Silvano Aureoles of corruption, embezzlement, and influence peddling. CPJ was unable to find contact information for Herrera or Aureoles.
The outlet also published articles on alleged corruption and extortion by local law enforcement in Zitácuaro, and accused municipal police in Zitácuaro of changing information about people arrested on drug possession charges.
CPJ called the Zitácuaro municipal police for comment, but no one answered.
Monitor Michoacán also reported that anonymous people had accused Linares of having ties to the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel, a criminal group that, according to news reports, has been involved in a series of killings and shootings in the Zitácuaro area. Linares denied having any such ties when he spoke to CPJ in January 2022.
Linares is the second Monitor Michoacán staff member killed in 2022. On January 31, unknown assailants shot and killed 55-year old Roberto Toledo Barrera, who worked as a camera operator and video editor, as well as an occasional writer for the outlet’s website.
On the day of Toledo’s killing, Linares published a brief video statement on the outlet’s Facebook page, in which he said that he and Monitor Michoacán had received death threats over the outlet’s reporting on alleged corruption by state and municipal authorities. He did not elaborate on the nature of the threats.
During three phone calls with CPJ in the days after Toledo’s killing, Linares reiterated that he had received death threats over his reporting, but did not provide any more details about the threats, citing concerns for his safety.
He confirmed to CPJ that he had been in contact with the Mexican Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which operates under the auspices of the federal Interior Secretariat and provides reporters under threat with protective measures.
An official from the mechanism told CPJ that Linares was in the process of being enrolled in a federal protection program when he was killed, but did not elaborate on what protective measures were planned for his case. The official requested not to be named, as they were not authorized to comment on the matter.