Threatened reporter murdered in Veracruz is third journalist killed in Mexico this year

Journalist Leobardo Vázquez Atzin, 42, was killed in the settlement of El Renacimiento in the city of Gutiérrez Zamora, Veracruz on March 21.

Leobardo Vázquez Atzin

Leobardo Vázquez Atzin (Facebook)

Noreste reported that armed persons entered his home and shot him at close range before fleeing on a motorcycle around 8 p.m.

He reported on political matters, social conflicts and crime in Gutiérrez Zamora and Tecolutla in northern Veracruz, according to the State Commission for the Care and Protection of Journalists (CEAPP, for its initials in Spanish), which condemned the murder through a press release.

Vázquez Atzin had worked for Noreste, La Opinión de Poza Rica and Vanguardia de Veracruz, according to Aristegui Noticias. He was an editor and designer at Noreste, cofounder of magazine El Portal and director of social communication of the City Council of Papantla, Animal Político reported.

Vázquez Atzin recently opened a Facebook page called Enlace Informativo Regional. The page has 2,043 followers.

Noreste reported that Vázquez Atzin received threats via Facebook after he published about an invasion of property in the region. The Facebook post Noreste linked to also indicates a dispute over property ownership. Noreste newspaper said Vázquez Atzin’s account was blocked for a few days following the threat and he opened another to keep reporting.

La Jornada quoted Ana Laura Pérez, president of CEAPP, as saying that colleagues in the area said Vázquez Atzin received threats from a mayor and a notary public. However, she said the journalist had not reported the threats to CEAPP.

The organization demanded in a press release that the State Attorney General investigate the murder with Vázquez Atzin’s work as a journalist as the main line of investigation.

The State Attorney General published a release about the murder “of a communicator who currently worked as a food merchant, identified as L.V.A.” The office said the person murdered was “carrying out activities related to his business of making and selling tacos” when he was shot by unknown people. The investigative team assigned to the case is coordinated by the Special Prosecutor for Attention to Complaints against Journalists, according to the Attorney General. The office said all lines of investigation will be pursued.

In the past, freedom of expression organizations have fought for the murders of journalists to be taken on by the Federal Prosecutor for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE), as in the case of the 2015 murder of journalist Moisés Sánchez Cerezo in Veracruz. According to Article 19 Mexico, Sánchez Cerezo’s journalistic work was disregarded as a motive for the crime, with FEADLE instead referring to his normal work as a taxi driver and saying his work as a reporter was sporadic.

According to Article 19 Mexico, Vázquez Atzin is the third journalist murdered in Mexico this year. In its recent annual report, the organization said that 41 journalists have been killed since current President Enrique Peña Nieto took office.

Article 19 labeled Veracruz the most dangerous state in Mexico to exercise journalism. It noted that the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) labeled Veracruz as a “zone of silence” in 2016. Seventeen journalists were killed in the state while Javier Duarte was governor (2010-2016). “However, the change in state government has not managed to decrease the risk for journalists in the state. During the current administration of Miguel Ángel Yunes Linares, four journalists have been killed,” the report said.