By Júlio Lubianco
Twenty-two journalists were murdered in Latin American countries between January and June 2022. The number is higher than the total number of killings of journalists in the region last year: 17. It is also higher than the number of journalists killed reporting on the war in Ukraine: 16 in the same period – another 14 journalists died in Ukraine in military combat. The data are from the Press Emblem Campaign (PEC), an international NGO whose objective is to strengthen the legal protection and safety of journalists around the world.
“In Latin America, 22 journalists were killed in the first 6 months of 2022, that is 6 more than for the whole year 2021. Besides Mexico (13), we condole three victims in Haiti, two in Brazil, two in Honduras, one in Chile and one in Guatemala. In Brazil, the murder of the British journalist with his colleague in the Amazonia was particularly sad. In Mexico, the further deterioration is appalling, with two victims per month. There must be zero impunity,” Blaise Lempen, president of PEC, told LatAm Journalism Review (LJR).
In the most recent case in Latin America, Mexican Antonio de la Cruz became the thirteenth journalist murdered in the country in 2022, according to PEC. He was shot on June 29 near his home in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas state. His daughter, Cinthya de la Cruz, was also shot in the same attack and died two days later. The journalist worked as a reporter for the newspaper Expreso for 15 years.
“This crime confirms the vulnerability of those who practice journalism in the country. The murder of Mr. Antonio de la Cruz, like the murders of journalists committed in the first half of the year, feed fear and anxiety among journalists in the country,” Guillermo Fernández-Maldonado, representative in Mexico for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a press release.
LJR cataloged all the cases registered by the PEC. Not all of them are recognized by the authorities as crimes carried out in retaliation for the victims’ journalistic activity; also the police and courts were only able to solve a few cases. Other organizations that also monitor violence against journalists have different criteria for counting each case.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) records 19 murders of journalists in Latin America and the Caribbean in the first six months of 2022: eight with a confirmed motive and 11 yet to be clarified. UNESCO lists 18 cases in its Observatory of Killed Journalists, while the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) barometer lists 11. The latter lists only confirmed cases of murders related to journalistic activity.
1. Amady John Wesley, Haiti, Jan. 6
2. Wilguens Louissaint, Haiti, Jan. 6
The Haitian journalists were shot to death by a group of criminals while trying to interview the leader of a rival gang. Amady worked for Canadian radio station Écoute FM in Montreal, and Louissaint was a reporter for the online outlets Télé Patriote and Tambou Verité.
3. Pablo Isabel Hernández Rivera, Honduras, Jan. 9
The community journalist and Indigenous leader was shot dead by unknown people while on his way to a church in the city of San Marcos de Caiquín. Rivera was director of the community radio station Tenán 94.1 F.M, “La voz Indígena Lenca,” and had already reported death threats in previous years, in addition to his media outlet being sabotaged.
4. José Luis Gamboa, Mexico, Jan. 10
The Mexican journalist was stabbed in an alleged robbery in Veracruz. In the days before the murder, Gamboa had published on social networks severe criticism of the level of insecurity in his region. A suspect in the murder was arrested by Mexican authorities.
5. Alfonso Margarito Martínez Esquivel, Mexico, Jan. 17
The Mexican photojournalist was ambushed and shot dead in front of his home in Tijuana. An unidentified individual fired several shots and fled. An independent professional who photographed crime scenes, Martínez has had works published in outlets such as Zeta Tijuana, La Jornada de Baja California and Cadena Noticias. The police identified and arrested the alleged perpetrator and two people suspected of ordering the crime.
6. Lourdes Maldonado, Mexico, Jan. 23
Another victim of violence against journalists in Mexico, the communicator was shot dead in front of her home in Tijuana. Maldonado had previously reported her fear of losing her life directly to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. After working in traditional outlets such as Televisa and Radio Formula, she presented the local news program “Brebaje.” Three suspects were arrested in the case.
7. Roberto Toledo, Mexico, Jan. 31
The cameraman and video editor of the Mexican portal Monitor Michoacán was attacked by three gunmen in the garage of his office. “Showing the corruption by corrupt governments, corrupt officials and politicians led today to the death of one of our colleagues,” said the director of Monitor Michoacán, Armando Linares, after the murder. Linares himself would be assassinated six weeks later, on March 15.
8. Marcos Ernesto Islas Flores, Mexico, Feb. 6
Having retired from journalism a year and a half ago, the 30-year-old former editor of Notiredes was another victim shot dead in front of his home in Tijuana, Mexico. According to his father and journalist Marco Antonio Islas Parra, there were four shots. The Baja California State Attorney General said it had arrested Flores’ alleged killer.
9. Givanildo Oliveira, Brazil, Feb. 7
Founder of the online news portal Pirambu News, aimed at journalism students and journalists from the periphery, the communicator was shot in the head the day after reporting on the arrest of a suspect in a double homicide. At his outlet, Oliveira mainly covered public security issues in the Pirambu favela in Fortaleza, Ceará. The police arrested a suspect.
10. Heber López Osorio, Mexico, Feb. 10
Founder and director of the portals Noticias Web of Salina Cruz and RCP Noticias, in Oaxaca, the Mexican was yet another journalist shot dead in front of his house. The day before he died, López had published a corruption complaint against former Salina Cruz municipal employee Arminda Espinosa Cartas. Police have arrested two suspects for the murder.
11. Maxiben Lazzare, Haiti, Feb. 23
Photojournalist for Roi des Infos, the Haitian was shot dead by police, who were shooting to disperse demonstrators at a protest by textile industry workers in Port-au-Prince. The Prime Minister of Haiti, Ariel Henry, regretted the episode in a publication on Twitter, and journalists held a demonstration to demand justice for Lazzare.
12. Michelle Perez Tadeo, Mexico, Feb. 23
The 29-year-old television presenter and model was found dead in rural Mexico City. Born in Veracruz, she moved to the capital nine years ago to fulfill her dream of being a sports presenter. Perez Tadeo is survived by a four-year-old son. Two men suspected of the crime were arrested.
13. Juan Carlos Muñiz, Mexico, March 4
The Mexican journalist from the portal Testigo Minero was shot dead in Zacatecas. Muñiz, who also worked as a taxi driver, was shot while driving his vehicle. Focused on covering violence and organized crime, he used “Rigoberto” or “El TX in his article bylines,” alluding to his other profession. A suspect was arrested.
14. Orlando Villanueva, Guatemala, March 8
The Guatemalan journalist was shot by individuals at a public sports complex in Puerto Barrios, capital of the department of Izabal, in eastern Guatemala. Villanueva covered local politics on the website Noticias del Puerto, which he owned. His site had recently published stories about crime, security issues and social protests in the area.
15. Armando Linares, Mexico, March 15
The director of Monitor Michoacán was shot dead at his home in the city of Zitácuaro, Mexico, just six weeks after Roberto Toledo, a reporter for the same outlet, was also shot and killed. Linares’ death led to the closure of the portal, which specialized in allegations of corruption, violence and political links with drug trafficking. Authorities have identified two suspects in the crime.
16. Luis Enrique Ramírez, Mexico, May 5
The body of the journalist, founder of the website Fuentes Fidedignas and columnist for the newspaper El Debate, was found on a road in Culiacán, capital of the Mexican state of Sinaloa. According to the State Attorney General’s Office, Ramírez suffered a “traumatic brain injury from blunt blows.” About three months before his death, the communicator wrote that “we want to be alive and alive to exercise free expression.”
17. Yesenia Mollinedo, Mexico, May 9
18. Sheila Johana García, Mexico, May 9
The director (Yesenia) and the reporter (Sheila) of the Mexican portal Veraz, from Veracruz, were shot to death inside a car, in the parking lot of a convenience store. The police arrested the alleged perpetrator of the crime. Yesenia’s mother, Aurora, stated that her daughter had already suffered threats and persecution. Two suspects were arrested.
19. Francisca Sandoval, Chile, 12 de maio
Señal 3 journalist La Victoria, from Chile, was shot while covering the May 1 Workers’ Day march. She remained hospitalized for 12 days, but did not survive her injuries. “Francisca has not left us. They murdered her,” posted Señal 3 on Twitter. A suspect was arrested for the murder.
20. Ricardo Alcides Ávila, Honduras, May 25
The 25-year-old Honduran journalist, writer and cameraman for independent broadcaster MetroTV, was shot in the head while riding his motorcycle to work. The police initially worked with the hypothesis of robbery, but, according to the Committee for Freedom of Expression (C-Libre), the victim was found with money, cell phone and motorcycle.
21. Dom Phillips, Brasil, 5 de junho
The English journalist, who had lived in Brazil for 15 years and worked for The Guardian, was found dead in Vale do Javari along with Indigenous issues expert Bruno Pereira. Police arrested a fisherman who confessed to shooting them both to death and then hiding the bodies in the jungle. The alleged mastermind turned himself in to the police.
22. Antonio de la Cruz, Mexico, June 29
The Mexican was murdered along with his daughter. He had covered the environment, community conflicts and other local issues for Expreso for 23 years. The journalist used social networks to criticize politicians and the government. Hundreds of journalists and communicators staged an act to demand justice for de la Cruz and the other Mexican journalists murdered recently.