The body of Julio Valdivia Rodríguez, 41, was found yesterday afternoon a few kilometres outside Tezonapa, a municipality 100 km southwest of the city of Veracruz. RSF has been told residents called the police after finding his headless body and, a few meters away, his head and his motorcycle with his newspaper’s logo.
Rodríguez had been a Tezonapa-based local correspondent for the daily Diario El Mundo for the past seven years, covering general news. Because of an increase in violence in the area this year, he recently began specializing in what the Mexican media call “nota roja” – crime, accidents and natural disasters. His last report, on 7 September, was about an armed clash between the police and a local criminal gang.
“A crime of such brutality cannot go unpunished,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of RSF’s Latin America bureau. “The Veracruz authorities must lose no time in identifying this murder’s perpetrators and instigators and should focus their investigation on a link with the victim’s journalistic work. Reporters in Veracruz have been subjected to an absolutely appalling level of violence for more than a decade. We call on the local and federal authorities to take stock of the extreme vulnerability of journalists in Veracruz and do what is necessary to guarantee their safety.”
Rodríguez was given protection by the Veracruz State Commission for the Attention and Protection of Journalists (CEAPP) in 2015 after the murder of Armando Saldaña Morales, a fellow journalist from Tezonapa. The protection was soon withdrawn and since then Rodríguez had not reported receiving any specific threat to the CEAAP.
Located in mountains on the border with Oaxaca state, Tezonapa and the adjoining Oaxacan municipality of Cosolapa have become a strategic centre for the region’s criminal groups, who wage turf wars and compete for privileged links with local politicians. Illegal trafficking in fuel, extortion, kidnappings and murders have all become common there in the past three years.
The other four journalists to have been murdered in Mexico 2020 are Pablo Morrugares, Víctor Fernando Álvarez Chávez, Jorge Miguel Armenta Ávalos and Maria Elena Ferral Hernández, who was also from Veracruz state. Veracruz is one of Mexico’s most dangerous states (see, for example, RSF’s 2017 report), with three journalists murdered there since Cuitláhuac García was sworn in as governor in December 2018.
Ten journalists were murdered in connection with their work in Mexico in 2019, which made it the world’s deadliest country for media personnel.
Mexico is ranked 143rd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.