Journalist murdered in Mexico had received threats

COSOLEACAQUE, Mexico —

The director of a news portal in southeastern Mexico who was shot had received threats for her journalistic work weeks before the deadly attack, her brother said Tuesday.

Yessenia Mollinedo Falconi and Sheila Johana García Olivera, director and reporter, respectively, of the portal El Veraz in the state of Veracruz, on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, were shot Monday afternoon while sitting in a vehicle that was parked in front of a a convenience store in the municipality of Cosoleacaque.

With the cases of Mollinedo Falconi and García Olivera, the number of communicators killed so far this year rose to 11, which has been considered the deadliest for the Mexican press.

The attack occurred a few days after the murder of journalist Luis Enrique Ramírez Ramos, whose body was found wrapped in a plastic bag on May 5 on a dirt road near the town of Culiacán, in the northern state of Sinaloa.

Ramiro Mollinedo Falconi, also a journalist, said that his younger sister had received threatening phone calls ordering her to remove crime-related stories from her news portal and that, more recently, she had dedicated her coverage to the Cosoleacaque mayor’s office.

“He was telling us that 15 days ago he had been the object of threats, that his mother was going to be cut off, that they were going to kill her,” said Ramiro Mollinedo Falconi.

After regretting the murders of the two journalists, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said on Tuesday, in his morning conference, that the investigations are already being carried out and that there are personnel dealing with the crime in a particular way. “Every day we are working like never before to protect women and all citizens,” he added.

Mollinedo Falconi narrated that on April 30, when leaving an event, his sister was followed by some unidentified men who were traveling in a car and a motorcycle, who told him that «we already have you located.» A similar situation occurred on May 4, the journalist said.

Still wearing the shirt that identifies him as a reporter for his own political news site «Now 30 30,» Mollinedo Falconi said his sister had no political enemies.

El Veraz, which was founded five years ago by Yessenia, operated on Facebook and seemed to publish almost exclusively notices about events or information from the municipal government. El Veraz’s motto was «Journalism with Humanity.»

“Some criminal group in this area ordered Yessenia to be executed for some publications that she had been making for her work,” said Mollinedo Falconi, adding that he suspected that the stories related to the state police had motivated the threats and that he believed that the local authorities They were protecting criminals.

Despite the threats, Yessenia did not file a formal complaint with authorities or register with state or federal programs to protect journalists, her brother said. «She thought that in one way or another… the threat was going to end as it happened a year and a half ago that they threatened her and that (the) time has passed until now, which was that unfortunately they executed it,» she commented.

While the family waited Monday night for the authorities to hand over the journalist’s body, unknown men on a motorcycle and in a car with tinted windows passed by the place several times.

«Of course we fear for our lives,» said Mollinedo Falconi, denouncing that his family has been subjected to kidnapping, extortion, repression and death threats and that his brothers had to leave the state to «avoid being executed.»

García Olivera had been working for his sister for less than a year, the journalist said. Mexico’s state and federal governments have been criticized for failing to prevent the murders of journalists and investigate them sufficiently.

Pedro Vaca, special rapporteur for freedom of expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, said on his Twitter account that «by conviction -or by reputation- it is NOT possible to tolerate that a democracy coexists with a slaughter of journalists.»

While organized crime is often involved in the murders of journalists, small-town officials or politicians are also often suspects.

Journalists who run small media outlets in the interior of Mexico are easy targets.

Cosoleacaque, which is located on the main east-west artery in southeastern Mexico, appeared deserted Monday night with no open businesses or people on the streets.

Authorities handed over the bodies of both women to their families before dawn on Tuesday. In each case, only a few family members sat with the coffins.

The Veracruz State Prosecutor’s Office promised a thorough investigation, including determining whether the victims’ journalistic work was the motive for their murders. The executive secretary of the Veracruz State Commission for Attention and Protection of Journalists, Israel Hernández Sosa, said that he insisted that the authorities make this possibility the first line of investigation of him.

Hernández Sosa described the situation in the area as «difficult» for journalists, but said that the commission had not had previous contact with Mollinedo Falconi or García Olivera.

The United States ambassador to Mexico, Ken Salazar, considered the murders of the journalists a «cowardly act» and «evil» and said on his Twitter account that it was an «attack against all of Mexican society.»

Salazar maintained that freedom of the press is «under attack and requires an urgent response to end the rise in violence against journalists.»

Likewise, the Inter-American Press Association condemned the «outrageous massacre» of journalists in Mexico and called on the international community to demand that the authorities take this «serious» and «exasperating» situation «more seriously.»

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AP journalist Christopher Sherman contributed to this story from Mexico City.