Hernández, a reporter for the daily Noticias, Voz e Imagen de Oaxaca, was shot in the head with a 9mm pistol as he climbed into his car outside a bar in the municipality of San Andrés Huaxpaltepec, in the state of Oaxaca, according to his paper and other reports.
Ismael Sanmartín Hernández, the editorial director of Noticias, Voz e Imagen de Oaxaca, told CPJ that Hernández wrote about cacicazgos (local strongmen who rule parts of the region) and their alleged influence in local politics. “He was often in fear,” Sanmartín said. He told CPJ Hernández had been working on sensitive stories and was afraid of reprisal.
Hernández, 38, was also a freelance correspondent at La Ke Buena radio in the municipality of Pinotepa Nacional, and at a community station in Santiago Jamiltepec, according to local news reports and a colleague at the paper, who spoke with CPJ. The colleague, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of reprisals, said Hernández reported on social issues including poverty, education, and politics. He said Hernández had recently reported on protests over the construction of a dam. The colleague added that he did not know of any threats against Hernández, but said the journalist had been afraid over his reporting on sensitive issues.
A journalist familiar with the case, who asked to remain anonymous out of security concerns, told CPJ Hernández had been threatened over his reporting.
On February 25, police arrested the police commander of Santiago Jamiltepec, Jorge Armando Santiago Martínez, and charged him with the murder of Hernández, according to local news reports.
Hernández’s colleague told CPJ in November that the Santiago Martínez remained in prison, but that there had been no new updates and that prosecutors had not released any information about the motive for the murder. The Oaxaca attorney general’s office did not respond to emails or phone calls from CPJ.
Sanmartín told CPJ Hernández was affiliated with the left-wing opposition political party MORENA, which later became Mexico’s ruling party under president Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Hernández worked as a municipal official responsible for culture in Santiago Jamiltepec.
A column published in Noticias, Voz e Imagen de Oaxaca on January 24, 2016 described Hernández as a brave reporter covering a region beset by political violence and, increasingly, drug cartels. “Time and again, Marcos Hernández Bautista, in the pages of Noticias, tirelessly revealed the true face of the coast; people’s aspirations, their struggles and conflicts, not only with organized crime, but with the other powers that be and corrupt public functionaries suspected of being linked with narcotics trafficking activities,” Amado Sanmartín Hernández wrote in the newspaper.
On February 25, 2016, local media reported that a suspect, a municipal police officer named Jorge Armando Santiago Pérez, had been arrested in the town of Santiago Jamiltepec for his alleged role in the killing. Another suspect, identified as Daniel N., allegedly accompanied Santiago Pérez while he carried out the attack and remained at large as of August 2023.
CPJ called the Oaxaca state prosecutor’s office and contacted the office via messaging app for comment but did not receive any replies.
On April 3, 2019, news magazine Proceso reported that Santiago Pérez had been released after successfully filing an injunction over alleged errors made during the investigation. He remained free as of mid-2023, according to four local journalists who spoke to CPJ.