Mexican journalist killed in Veracruz while under government protection

This story was updated to provide more information about the murder as well as the protection mechanism protecting Ríos.

Mexican journalist Cándido Ríos Vázquez was killed in southern Veracruz on Aug. 22, 2017 despite being under the federal government program to protect journalists.

Ríos was shot at a convenience store in Juan Diaz Covarrubias in the municipality of Hueyapan de Ocampo at the end of a day of work, according to El Diario de Acayucan, the newspaper he worked for as a correspondent. AFP reported that he died en route to the hospital. 

Ríos, who was under the federal Mechanism for Protection for Human Rights and Defenders and Journalists because of threats he had received, appeared to have stopped to talk with former police inspector of Acayucan Victor Acrelio Alegria when they were both shot, according to what Cecilio Perez Cortes, deputy editor at Ríos' place of work, told the Associated Press. The two men, along with a former municipal agent, died, Diario de Xalapa reported.

The State Commission for the Care and Protection of Journalists in Veracruz (CEAPP for its acronym in Spanish) confirmed the journalist was under the protection mechanism and said it had provided legal advice to the journalist after a complaint was filed with the Attorney General’s Office in 2012.

According to the AP, Cecilio Perez Cortes said a former mayor of Hueyapan de Ocampo had repeatedly threatened the journalist. He added that Ríos had a panic button on his cellphone and a security camera at home

The National Commission on Human Rights (CNDH) asked the Secretary General of the Government of Veracruz to implement precautionary measures for the journalist’s family, according to Proceso. The Commission also asked all three levels of government for a thorough investigation that would not omit Ríos’ journalistic work as a line of investigation.

Ríos, who also founded La Voz de Hueyapan, was “known for his long career covering nota roja [the crime beat], and for having had conflicts with some former mayors of the region due to his journalistic work,” AFP reported.

The cover of the Aug. 23 edition of El Diario de Acayucan featured a photo of Ríos along with a quote: “Our weapons do not shoot bullets, they shoot truths.” At the very top of the page in big bold letters: “They will not shut us up” (No nos callan).

A recent report from freedom of expression organization Article 19 Mexico said that a journalist is attacked in the country once every 15.7 hours. Prior to Riós’ murder, eight journalists had been killed in the country this year and one has been disappeared, according to the organization’s count. The organization counts journalist Salvador Adame Pardo as disappeared since his relatives have called into question the investigation of his kidnapping and the subsequent announcement by the government that his remains were located in Michoacán.

Ríos is the third journalist to be killed in Veracruz this year. Honduran cameraman Edwin Rivera Paz was killed in Acayucan on July 9 after fleeing to Mexico out of fear for his life after a colleague was murdered. Ricardo Monlui Cabrera was murdered on March 19 in Yanga while getting into a car with his wife and daughter, who were physically unharmed.

The federal government’s Mechanism of Protection for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists has been sharply criticized by national and international organizations. Journalists have also voiced their distrust of the mechanism, even choosing not to seek its help in the face of death threats.

Following the murder of journalist Javier Valdez in Sinaloa on May 15, hundreds of Mexican journalists began participating in an initiative, #AgendaDePeriodistas, to fight violence against journalists and impunity. The group is currently forming its permanent agenda and deciding on an organizational model to represent the journalists’ interests.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.

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