HAVANA TIMES – Mexican authorities must conduct a swift and thorough investigation into the killing of journalist Israel Vázquez Rangel and redouble their efforts to protect members of the press, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Yesterday morning, in the central Mexican city of Salamanca, unidentified individuals shot and killed Vázquez, a reporter for the El Salmantino news website, while he was reporting from a crime scene, according to news reports and El Salmantino editor Victor Ortega, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview.
Vázquez was investigating reports of human remains left in a plastic bag, and arrived at the scene of that incident before any police officers; as he prepared to air a Facebook Live stream for El Salamantino, armed individuals in a vehicle approached the journalist and shot him at least five times, according to Ortega and those reports.
He was driven to a nearby hospital and underwent surgery, but died at approximately 1 p.m., those news reports said. The Guanajuato state prosecutor’s office said in a statement that it had assigned a “special team” to investigate the killing.
“The brazen killing of Israel Vázquez Rangel underscores how Mexico is more dangerous for reporters than even war zones,” said Jan-Albert Hootsen, CPJ’s Mexico representative. “Authorities must treat this, and all other journalist killings, as an emergency, and spare no effort in holding its perpetrators to account.”
Vázquez is at least the third Mexican reporter killed in recent weeks: on October 29, TV host Arturo Alba Medina was killed in Ciudad Juárez, in Chihuahua state, and on November 2, journalist Jesús Alfonso Piñuelas was shot and killed in the northern state of Sonora. CPJ is investigating both killings to determine whether journalism was the motive.
Vázquez, 33, had been a reporter at El Salmantino for about three years, Ortega told CPJ. He said that Vázquez mostly covered crime and security in the city, but had not reported receiving any threats. Ortega added that the outlet as a whole had not received any threats.
“It’s not clear whether the attack was directed against Israel because of his specifically being a journalist,” Ortega said. “It’s more likely that the men who shot him simply saw him approach the body and attacked him because of that.”
Vázquez most recently covered sports and security issues, according to El Salmantino’s website. On November 2 he wrote a piece about bodies in plastic bags found throughout Salamanca, allegedly planted by organized crime groups, and on November 6 he uploaded a video about recent murders in the city.
Verónica Espinosa, a journalist at the local news magazine Proceso who knew Vázquez well told CPJ that he “was very concerned about the situation in the state, very aware of the dangers.”
CPJ called the Guanajuato police for comment but no one answered. An official with the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which operates under the auspices of the Interior Secretariat and provides journalists with protection programs, told CPJ that the mechanism had not been aware of any threats against Vázquez or El Salmantino.
Mexico is the deadliest country in the world for journalists in 2020; according to CPJ research, at least four journalists have been killed this year alone in direct relation to their work.