Mexico journalists hold vigil after colleague killed amid escalating violence against press News
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Mexico journalists hold vigil after colleague killed amid escalating violence against press

Mexican journalists held a vigil and protest Saturday after one of their colleagues, Roberto Figueroa, was killed in the southern state of Morelos, according to reports from local media. Figueroa, host and producer of the show “Acá en el Show” is the first journalist murdered in the country in 2024.

Journalists gathered at the Memorial for the Victims of Morelos, demanding justice for the murder of Figueroa, whose body was discovered on a rural road near the Coajomulco forest in Morelos. According to reports from the Quadratín news agency, Figueroa was abducted on April 26, 2024, shortly after dropping off his daughters at a high school in Cuernavaca. When he failed to return home, his wife received a harrowing call from the alleged kidnappers, demanding ransom for his release. Fearing for her husband’s life, she complied with their demands, paying the requested sum. The captors then instructed her that Figueroa would be found in the area of Coajomulco. That night, authorities made the discovery of an abandoned vehicle in a wooded area along kilometer 58 of the federal Cuernavaca-Mexico highway. Inside the vehicle lay Figueroa’s body, bearing a fatal gunshot wound to the head. The body of another man, whose identity has not yet been revealed, was found by the side of the car.

During the protest, journalist Jaime Luis Brito voiced concern that the crime highlights the terrible violence and ungovernability plaguing the state. In line with this, the Government of Morelos condemned Figueroa’s murder through its X (formerly Twitter) account, calling on authorities from the State Attorney General’s Office to conduct thorough investigations to identify those responsible. It also announced that the Victims’ Assistance Commission would provide support to Figueroa’s family members.

While the prosecutor’s office has not confirmed whether Figueroa’s murder was linked to his journalistic work, his colleagues claim it was. One spokesperson for the journalists present at the mobilization stated their belief that Figueroa’s killing was directly tied to his profession. Protesters held signs reading “You don’t kill the truth by killing journalists. Stop impunity,” “No more violence” and “Press. Don’t shoot.” In addition, the assembled journalists demanded that the Mexican Congress take action to protect the right to freedom of expression. Echoing their call, the Secretary General of the Confederation of Mexican Workers and Senator of the Republic, Carlos Aceves del Olmo, condemned Figueroa’s murder through his X account and joined the chorus seeking a free and safe press in Mexico.

The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights also condemned Figueroa’s murder, urging authorities to diligently investigate the crime, find those responsible, and ensure that the crime does not go unpunished. The Commission underscored that violent acts targeting journalists have a threefold detrimental impact: first, they infringe upon the victims’ fundamental right to freely express, share, and disseminate ideas, opinions, and information; second, they cast a chilling effect that silences and intimidates fellow journalists; and third, they violate the broader rights of individuals and societies at large to seek out and receive information and ideas of all kinds.

Year after year, Mexico retains its unfortunate status as one of the deadliest and most perilous nations globally for journalists, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Alarmingly, since 1995, the country has witnessed the killings of 156 journalists, with 31 more remaining missing. The organization Article 19 reported that 2022 marked a peak, with a record 13 journalists murdered over the course of the year. RSF has leveled sharp criticism at Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, in power since 2018, accusing his administration of failing to implement the necessary reforms and measures to stem the relentless tide of violence targeting the press. The watchdog group also says that López Obrador and other high-ranking state officials have adopted hostile and stigmatizing rhetoric toward journalists, routinely accusing them of siding with the opposition.