Journalists Yessenia Mollinedo Falconi and Johana García were getting into their car in a convenience store parking lot in Cosoleacaque, a town in the eastern state of Veracruz, when an unknown number of assailants approached and shot them at 4 p.m. on May 9, 2022, according to news reports, which cited eyewitnesses.
Mollinedo, 45, was the founder and editor of El Veraz, a news outlet that covers southern Veracruz, where García was recently hired as a camera operator, according to those reports. On May 9, the Veracruz state prosecutor’s office published a statement on Facebook confirming it had opened an investigation.
Mollinedo previously covered crime and security in the area for El Veraz but stopped doing so after receiving numerous death threats over the past few years, according to the journalist’s brother, Ramiro Mollinedo Falconi, who spoke with CPJ by video call. Most of her articles had been taken down out of concern for her safety.
On April 30, 2022, Mollinedo received a death threat while covering events in Cosoleacaque on Children’s Day, a Mexican national holiday. Two men riding a motorcycle “approached her and told her they knew who she was,” Ramiro Mollinedo told CPJ. Later that day, Mollinedo told her brother that she was followed by two men in a taxi who she described as physically imposing and who stared at her in a way that she perceived as threatening. CPJ was unable to confirm whether the threat was related to her reporting.
El Veraz was founded in 2015 and employed at least nine other reporters and editors at the time of Mollinedo’s death, Ramiro Mollinedo told CPJ, who added that the outlet’s website is no longer online due to financial difficulties.
At the time of Mollinedo’s and Garciá’s killing, the outlet’s Facebook page had 20,000 followers and recently posted articles about events and press conferences by public officials from the Minatitlán area and protests against alleged abuses of power by local authorities. Most of the recent reports did not carry a byline, and none of the articles posted in the three prior months were signed by Mollinedo. Those that did were short publications containing birthday wishes, according to CPJ’s review.
On June 6, the office of the Veracruz state prosecutor (FGE) announced in a Facebook statement that a suspect, identified only as Armando N., alias “El Trascabo,” had been arrested in connection with the killings. According to the statement, the suspect was identified after authorities reviewed security camera footage of the attack.
The arrest of a second suspect, identified only as Víctor Manuel N., alias “El Calaco,” was announced on June 8, 2022, in another statement published by the FGE on Facebook. Neither statement provided further details about the suspects’ identities or motives.
The Veracruz State Commission for Attention to and Protection of Journalists (CEAPP), an autonomous institution of the Veracruz state government, did not respond to several requests for comment via messaging app as of June 13, 2022. CPJ’s several calls to the office of Veracruz state prosecutor Verónica Hernández were unanswered.