Roberto Toledo Barrera

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Roberto Toledo Barrera, a camera operator and video editor for news website Monitor Michoacán, was shot and killed on January 31, 2022, in Zitácuaro, a town 80 miles west of Mexico City in the central Mexican state of Michoacán, according to a Facebook video statement by the website’s editor, Armando Linares, published the day of the attack.

Around 1:30 p.m. on January 31, Toledo was at the office of lawyer Joel Vera, also a Monitor Michoacán editor, to record a video column when the doorbell rang, according to Armando Linares, an editor of Monitor Michoacán, who spoke to CPJ by phone and a police report shared with local media on February 1, 2022, which was reviewed by CPJ.

When Toledo opened the door, he was shot from the street by an unknown number of attackers, according to those sources. Vera was unharmed during the assault. Toledo died of his injuries before emergency services could arrive.

The Michoacán state prosecutor’s office (FGE) has opened an investigation into the murder, according to a FGE statement, reviewed by CPJ. CPJ called Zitácuaro municipal authorities and a spokesperson for the Michoacán state prosecutor’s office several times on January 31 and February 1 for comment, but no one answered.

During the video statement published the day Toledo was murdered, Linares said the outlet had received death threats because of Monitor Michoacán’s criticisms of state and municipal authorities. He did not specify how the threats were sent.

Monitor Michoacán covers politicscrime, and security in the greater Zitácuaro area, publishing to its website and Facebook page. On January 27, four days before the attack, the outlet published a short commentary criticizing state authorities for allegedly changing information about people arrested on drug possession charges.

The same day, the outlet posted on Facebook that anonymous profiles accused Linares of having ties to the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel (CJNG), a notorious criminal enterprise that, according to news reports, has been involved in a series of murders and shootings in the Zitácuaro area.

On February 1, the day after the attack, Vera published a brief statement on Monitor Michoacán’s Facebook page saying he was saddened by the killing and calling on authorities to investigate. Several attempts to reach Vera by phone were unsuccessful.

Toledo, 55, joined Monitor Michoacán two years prior to his death, Linares told CPJ. Linares said he wasn’t sure if Toledo was the intended victim or if the target was anyone at the Monitor Michoacán, adding that “regardless, I believe that Roberto was shot because he was in the way.”

An unnamed 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 security measures for reporters at risk, told CPJ that his office had not been aware of threats against Toledo, Linares, or Vera, but that, in the wake of the killing, he reached out to Linares, which Linares confirmed on January 31. The official asked to remain anonymous, as he is not authorized to speak on the matter.