Ricardo Domínguez López, the founder and editor of news website InfoGuaymas, was shot and killed in the late afternoon on July 22, 2021, his 47th birthday, by an unknown assailant using a .38 caliber handgun in a parking lot of a convenience store in the city of Guaymas, in the northern Mexican state of Sonora, according to news reports and the Sonora state prosecutor (FGJE), who spoke to regional newspaper El Imparcial.
In a statement posted on FGJE’s Facebook page on July 26, 2021, state prosecutor Claudia Indira Contreras said her office is investigating whether López was targeted because of his work as a journalist.
InfoGuaymas, a news website with a Facebook page counting more than 300,000 followers, covers a broad range of topics including municipal, state, national, and international news as well as crime and security. According to CPJ’s review of the website, the majority of the articles have no byline; the most recent article carrying López’s name was published on July 17 and covered the regional impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, he covered a deadly shootout in Guaymas in a video posted on InfoGuaymas’ Facebook page.
On March 29, 2021, López told reporters in a press conference, a video of which was published on the Facebook page of Sonora outlet Agencia ICE Cazando la noticia, that he had received death threats from criminal gangs over his reporting, but did not say which publications may have provoked the threats. He also said he was subject to a smear campaign when local police in Guaymas used a Facebook page to falsely accuse him of having ties to organized crime.
CPJ was unable to locate the Facebook page López referred to in the news conference, but two reporters based in the region who knew López personally and asked to remain anonymous due to security concerns confirmed the existence of the page via phone. They also told CPJ that journalists in the region, especially those who cover crime and security, are often subject to threats and violence by criminal gangs.
CPJ called the Guaymas local police several times but no one picked up.
CPJ was unable to determine whether López’s killing was related to the threats he described in the press conference.
Nevertheless, two reporters from Sonora, who knew López personally and report regularly on the region around Guaymas, both told CPJ in telephone conversations on July 23, 2021, that they had no doubt that the murder was related to his work as a journalist and that it was likely related to InfoGuaymas’ coverage of crime and security in the region. They asked CPJ to stay anonymous out of concern for their safety.
Before founding InfoGuaymas, López contributed reporting to television broadcaster Televisa Sonora, radio station Grupo Larsa, and newspaper Diario Yaqui, according to news reports. At the time of his death he was president of the local Association of Independent Journalists in Guaymas and Empalme, the reports said.
CPJ sent several messages to InfoGuaymas’ editorial staff via messaging app and email but did not receive any replies.
An official of the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which operates under the auspices of the federal interior secretariat and provides government-sanctioned protection to journalists at risk of violence, did not answer several telephone calls by CPJ to determine whether the agency was aware of threats against López’s life and whether he was enrolled in a government protection program. CPJ called FGJE several times but no one picked up.
According to news reports, the number of murders in Sonora has soared in recent years, especially in the region bordering the United States in the north and the coastal region south of the state capital of Hermosillo, where the municipalities of Guaymas, Empalme, and Cajeme are located, due to territorial disputes involving criminal gangs.