In the past week alone, two journalists have been murdered in Mexico, a stark signal of the unabated crisis of journalist safety in the country, which the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has failed to address. The IPI global network condemns the most recent killing of Nelson Matus Peña, urges authorities to conduct comprehensive and conclusive investigations into the murders of all journalists killed in Mexico, and calls upon the government to take urgent action to protect the lives of media workers in the country.  

On the afternoon of July 15, journalist Nelson Matus Peña was shot and killed in a thrift store parking lot outside the city of Acapulco, in the Mexican state of Guerrero. Matus was the founder and director of Lo Real de Guerrero, a local outlet specializing in reporting on crime and organized violence in the region. On the day he was murdered, Matus published a report on a body that had turned up in a bag on a beach near an Acapulco hotel.

“IPI strongly condemns the murder of Nelson Matus Peña, the latest victim in Mexico’s now decades-long journalist safety crisis, which has made the country the world’s most dangerous place to be a journalist”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. “Time and time again, Mexican authorities have committed to ending the impunity that fuels this crisis. But the facts speak for themselves. Journalists continue to be killed, and in nearly all cases the perpetrators go unpunished, paving the way for further violence.”

“The López Obrador administration, like its predecessors, has so far completely failed in its obligation to protect the safety of journalists. We repeat our call on the Mexican government to finally take action to safeguard journalist safety and press freedom.”

Long career in journalism

Local authorities said they have launched an investigation for aggravated homicide, and expressed their commitment to “exhaust every line of investigation” into Matus’s killing.

Matus has a long and storied career in journalism, and worked for outlets such as Revista Alarma, El Alarmante and Agora Guerrero before founding Lo Real de Guerrero. For 15 years he reported on violence and crime in Mexico, a beat known as “red news”, or “nota roja,” in Spanish. Reporters who cover this genre of news are often especially vulnerable to attacks from the organized crime groups they report on. Prior to his death on Saturday, Matus survived two previous attempts on his life, one in 2017 and one in 2019, and numerous other threats and physical attacks.

Matus’s murder comes exactly a week after the killing of La Jornada journalist Luis Martín Sánchez Íñiguez, who was found dead in the Mexican state of Nayarit after going missing the week prior. State prosecutors said that Sánchez’s journalistic work is the main motive under consideration in their investigation of the crime.

In the wake of these most recent attacks on the press, journalists have demonstrated outside government office buildings across Mexico, including in Mexico City, Guerrero and Nayarit, calling for justice for killed journalists.

Matus is at least the fifth journalist to be killed in Mexico this year, according to IPI monitoring. In May, journalists Marco Aurelio Ramírez Hernández and Gerardo Torres Rentería were shot and killed by armed gunmen in two separate incidents in the Mexican states of Puebla and Guerrero. In February, journalist Abisaí Pérez Romero was found dead under suspicious circumstances in the Mexican state of Hidalgo, after going missing while investigating possible environmental crimes in the region.