Independent Journalist Killed in Veracruz
On Wednesday, March 21, an independent journalist was shot dead in Veracruz, Mexico. Leobardo Vázquez Atzin, 42, is yet another victim of the continual assault of journalists in Mexico. According to Al Jazeera News, Vázquez was the fourth journalist to be killed in Mexico in 2018.
Vázquez, who previously worked for a local newspaper before launching his own news website, was killed next to his house at a taco stand that he managed. The assailants fled on a motorcycle, leaving Vázquez to die on the street. At this time, no suspects have been identified.
While officials do not know the motive for the murder, in recent weeks Vázquez had published stories “about a shooting in a shopping district and about a burned-out vehicle discovered outside a chapel.”
The Mexican newspaper Sin Embargo reported that Vázquez had been threatened via anonymous channels and had requested protection weeks before his tragic death.
The day after his death, press freedom advocates criticized the attorney general’s office for not taking the case seriously. Jan-Albert Hootsen, the Mexico Representative for the Committee to Protect Journalist said: “His death is yet another sign that the conditions for journalists in Veracruz simply haven't improved.”
On Thursday, Hootsen tweeted that “ The Veracruz state attorney general's office confirmed to me just now that Leobardo Vázquez’s work as a journalist is, in fact, one of the lines of investigation into the murder.”
The state of Veracruz has consistently been ranked as one of the deadliest places in the world to practice journalism. Press freedom groups consider the region “a zone of silence” as journalist practice self-censorship in order to remain safe.
From 2010 to 2016, at least 22 journalist were murdered in Veracruz under Javier Duarte’s time as governor. Duarte is currently serving prison time on corruption charges.
According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), "Mexico continues to be the Western Hemisphere's deadliest country for the media. When journalists cover subjects linked to organised crime or political corruption (especially at the local level), they immediately become targets and are often executed in cold blood."