Lourdes Maldonado López was shot to death in her car around 7 p.m., according to a statement by the Prosecutor General’s Office. She was the third journalist to have been killed in Mexico in 2022 alone.
Maldonado drew attention at a press conference in 2019 when she told Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador that she had been drawn into a wrongful dismissal suit with her former employer Jaime Bonilla Valdez — who was running for governor of Baja California — and that she feared for her life.
Her dispute with Bonilla stemmed from wages that she had not been paid before being dismissed from PSN (Media Sport de México SA de CV) and that she was still owed in excess of 500,000 pesos (US$24,250).
She said that seeking justice against a powerful political figure carried with it the risk of severe retaliation.
“I come here to ask for your support, help and labor justice because I am afraid for my life,” she told President López.
Commenting on Maldonado’s murder, the president said that while it was “very unfortunate,” it was too early to say if it was connected to her dispute with Bonilla.
Bonilla, the 16th governor of Baja California, said that “there was never a threat, not even an argument” against her, according to CNN.
For the moment, the motive behind Maldonado’s murder remains unknown and no suspects have been named or arrested.
Mexico is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists; dozens have been murdered in recent years and several thousands more have been harassed, threatened, and attacked.
Many of these cases derive from the work that they do: investigating corruption and organized crime, such as violent drug cartels.
Such killings rarely see justice delivered, with police outmatched and unable to fully investigate the circumstances behind the murders.
Article 19, an international human rights organization dedicated to defending freedom of information, reported last year that 2,258 attacks had been directed at Mexican journalists since 2017 and that 18 had been murdered because of their work since December 2018.
The human rights group further called upon President López “to take more stringent steps to protect journalists and free speech.”
Six days before Maldonado’s death, Margarito Martínez was also shot and killed outside his home in Tijuana. As a photojournalist, he depicted the levels of violence in the crime-filled city.
And a week before Martínez was killed, editor José Luis Gamboa Arenas was stabbed to death in Veracruz. Police are still unsure if his death was linked to his reporting on organized crime.
In response to Maldonado’s killing, the UN called on Mexican authorities “to strengthen the protection of journalists, in particular to take further steps to prevent attacks on them, including by tackling threats and slurs aimed at them.”
Reporters Without Borders currently ranks Mexico 143rd out of 180 in its Press Freedom Index.