According to JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog, Juan Carlos Hernández Ríos, 29, was shot dead upon arriving at his home on the night of Sept. 5 in the Mexican state of Guanajuato. The killers were two unknown men who, according to the neighbors, had been waiting for him for hours. Hernández died in the hospital, reported Mexican site Sin Embargo.
For a couple of months, Hernández Ríos had contributed to La Bandera Noticias. His main function was to transport Alejandro Chávez, a reporter from that news site, to his assignments and assist him in recording videos and photographs. Chávez usually covers police news, especially events related to organized crime, Zona Franca reported.
“As his participation became more frequent, he was hired on a daily basis. Every day we went out in the morning, very early, because there were events every day, but in Yuriria, in other municipalities in the area,” Chávez told Zona Franca. The reporter stressed that Hernández became part of the team.
In December 2016, freedom of expression organization Article 19 Mexico issued an alert regarding Chávez being threatened by the son of the current mayor of Yuriria, Gerardo Gaviña. These threats began once the reporter for La Bandera Noticias reported on the eviction of a group of farmers by the municipal government, Infobae reported.
The coordinator of social communication of the Guanajuato government, Enrique Avilés Pérez, denied that Hernández practiced journalism, according to Zona Franca.
Avilés also communicated with Aristegui Noticias to clarify that Hernández was mainly taxi driver, for years, and not a journalist.
It is not uncommon for government officials in Mexico to downplay or negate the potential role of a journalist or media worker’s profession in their death.
In relation to the murder of Hernández, an editor at Zona Franca, Javier Bravo, said in the Carmen Aristegui news program that the rate of executions linked to organized crime and murders in the state of Guanajuato has seen an unprecedented increase. So far this year, there have been about 830 murders in that state, Bravo said.
Hernandez, who worked for the media outlet La Bandera Noticias de Yuriria, in Guanajuato, is at least the eleventh communicator to be murdered so far in 2017 in Mexico.
Many organizations in Mexico classify the number of homicides or assaults against journalists according to their own criteria One of these criteria could be whether or not direct evidence exists that the journalist or communicator was killed for reasons related to his or her work. However, the greater consensus on these figures indicates that in the year 2017, eleven Mexican journalists have been killed.
According to a recent report from Article 19 Mexico, a journalist is assaulted every 15.7 hours in Mexico. Likewise, during the first half of 2017, aggressions against media workers have increased by 23 percent compared to the previous year, according to Animal Político.
“Any act of aggression toward journalists and human rights defenders is unacceptable, but it is especially alarming when journalists and defenders are the victims of violent physical attacks and murder,” the human rights organization Washington Office for Latin American Affairs (WOLA).
The organization also noted that the recent murders and attacks against communicators in Mexico demonstrate that the current federal and local mechanisms for the protection of journalists in Mexico – such as the Mechanism of Protection for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists of the Secretariat of the Interior (Segob) and the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) – are not sufficient to prevent attacks against journalists or to guarantee their protection.