COSOLEACAQUE, Mexico (AP) — The director of an online news site in southeastern Mexico had been threatened in recent weeks over her journalism before being killed with a colleague, her brother said Tuesday.
Yessenia Mollinedo Falconi and Sheila Johana García Olivera, the director and a reporter, respectively, of the online news site El Veraz in Cosoleacaque were shot Monday afternoon while sitting in a vehicle parked outside a convenience store.
Fear gripped the town after the slayings, and only some friends finally dared to visit the Mollinedo’s house to give condolences Tuesday evening. Then, the women of the family opened the coffin, put on her low-heeled shoes and said goodbye to the journalist with the open coffin.
They were the 10th and 11th media workers killed in Mexico so far this year and their deaths came just days after another journalist was killed in the northern state of Sinaloa.
Ramiro Mollinedo Falconi, also a journalist, said his younger sister had received threatening phone calls ordering her to remove crime-related stories from her news site and that more recently she had dedicated her coverage to Cosoleacaque city hall.
“She was telling us 15 days ago that she had received threats, that they were going to finish her, that they were going to kill her,” Ramiro Mollinedo Falconi said. Then on April 30, his sister was leaving an event when unidentified men began following her in a car and on a motorcycle. “They told her, ‘We know who you are,’” he said. Something similar happened to her on May 4, he said.
Still wearing the shirt that identified him as a reporter for his own political news site “Ahora 30 30,” he said his sister did not have political enemies.
El Veraz — which translates as “the truthful one” — operated a Facebook page and appeared to almost exclusively post notices about events or public information from the municipality’s government. El Veraz’s motto was “Journalism with Humanity.” Yessenia Mollinedo Falconi founded it five years ago.
“Here it was organized crime,” he said. “Some criminal group from this area ordered the execution of Yessenia for some publications she had been doing for her work.” He said he suspected stories related to the state police were to blame and believed that local authorities were protecting criminals.
Still, Yessenia did not make a formal complaint about the threats to authorities or register with state or federal journalist protection programs, her brother said. She thought the menace would just go away like it had more than a year and a half ago when she also received threats, but nothing came of them.
He said that even Monday night while the family was waiting for authorities to release her body, unknown men made several passes on a motorcycle and in a car with tinted windows.
“Of course we fear for our lives,” Ramiro Mollinedo Falconi said. “Our family has been the object of kidnapping, our family has been object of extortion. My family has been the object of constant repression, of death threats…. My siblings have had to leave this state to avoid being killed.”
García Olivera had been working for his sister for less than year, he said.
Mexico’s state and federal governments have been criticized for neither preventing journalists’ killings nor investigating them sufficiently.
Pedro Vaca, special rapporteur for freedom of expression for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, said via Twitter: “By conviction — or reputation — it cannot be tolerated that a democracy coexists with a slaughter of journalists.”
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Tuesday that the case would be investigated.
While organized crime is often involved in journalist killings, small town officials or politicians with political or criminal motivations are often suspects as well. Journalists running small news outlets in Mexico’s interior are easy targets.
Cosoleacaque sits on a major east-west artery in southeast Mexico. Organized crime moves drugs and migrants, but also runs extortion rackets.
On Monday night, the town appeared deserted. No businesses were open, no people walked outside, no taxis cruised the streets.
Authorities released the bodies of both women to their families before dawn Tuesday. For most of the day, just a few relatives sat with the caskets. Burials were scheduled for Wednesday.
The Veracruz State Prosecutor’s Office promised a thorough investigation, including looking at whether the victims’ journalistic work was a motive in their killings.
Israel Hernández Sosa, executive secretary of the Veracruz State Commission for Attention To and Protection of Journalists, said he was insisting that authorities make that possibility their first line of investigation.
He described the situation in the area for journalists as very difficult, but he said the commission had had no prior contact with Mollinedo Falconi or García Olivera.
Associated Press writer Christopher Sherman in Mexico City contributed to this report.
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