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The International Press Institute (IPI) expressed its deepest condolences to the family and colleagues of journalist Francisco Romero whose body was found on Thursday, May 16, with multiple contusions and gunshot wounds in the town of Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

The murder of Romero, a crime reporter for newspapers Playa News Aquí and Ahora, sheds serious doubts about the Federal Protection Mechanism, in charge of ensuring the journalist’s safety in reaction to the numerous threats received by Romero following the murder of his two colleagues, Ruben Pat Cahuich and José Guadalupe Chan Dzib, in June and July 2018, respectively.

The Mechanism had assigned Romero two bodyguards and a panic button. According to local media, the night of his murder, Romero had sent the guards to rest when, at 5 am, he received a call from an alleged informant, alerting him about a crime committed in a local bar. Approximately one hour later, the authorities found Romero’s body in the parking lot of the premises.

On April 12, Romero had already reported new death threats to the police.

Francisco Romero is the fifth journalist killed in Mexico so far in 2019, the second killed while being under police protection. The director of Radio Kashana, Rafael Murúa Manríquez, who had been under the Federal Protection Mechanism since 2016, was murdered in Baja California Sur on January 20.

Expressing concern for the persistent violence against journalists in Mexico, IPI urged President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to live up to his commitment of improve the federal mechanism for the protection of journalists and bring to justice the perpetrators of crimes against journalists. “Impunity is one the closest ally of those who commit crimes against journalists, and we have already seen too much of it in Mexico” IPI Executive Director Barbara Trionfi said. “As the lack of justice persists, the voices of independent journalists are being silenced one after the other and with them, the foundations for a credible democracy.”

When López Obrador took office in December 2018, IPI sent him an open letter to call for an end to impunity in cases of murders of journalists and urged for reinforcing the protection mechanism for journalists.

“We are confident that you are aware of the situation. You will also know that independent media can play a key role in your efforts to combat corruption,” IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said in the letter. “Indeed, no fight against corruption and crime can be won without media that are able to report fearlessly on these issues.”

Nevertheless, IPI has recorded no improvement in the ability of journalists in Mexico to work safely. In 2018, 13 journalists were killed Mexico as a consequence of their job, making it the country with the highest number of journalist murders, alongside Afghanistan.