Mardonio Mejía

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On January 24, 2024, a gunman shot and killed Mardonio Mejía Mendoza at his home in the town of San Pedro in the northern Colombian department of Sucre, according to Colombian authorities and news reports

Mejía, 67, was founder and director of the independent Sonora Estero radio station in San Pedro, where he 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.

The motive for the killing was unclear, according to a FLIP statement

Manuel Morón, president of the National Association of Journalists in Sucre department, 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.

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.

Hours after the shooting, police arrested Ledinwit Yesith Díaz Mercado in San Pedro. A statement by the Attorney General’s office on January 26, 2024, 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 the FLIP statement. That year, FLIP said, four journalists who covered local politics and environmental issues in Sucre received threats in connection with their work.