Ninth journalist killed in Mexico in 2022 had been denouncing threats against him for over a decade

By May 9, 2022

Mexican journalist and political analyst Luis Enrique Ramírez Ramos was found dead last week, making him the ninth journalist to fall victim to a spate of killings in the first months of 2022. He had been alerting authorities to threats against him for over a decade. 

In the early morning hours of May 5, police discovered an abandoned body on a dirt road near Culiacan, the capital of the western state of Sinaloa. 

The body, reportedly covered in a black plastic bag and showing signs of severe head trauma, was confirmed by the Sinaloa Attorney General’s Office to be that of Mr. Ramírez. 

Sinaloa Attorney General Sara Bruna Quiñones said that authorities are investigating if his murder was related to his work as a journalist. 

In 2011, Mr. Ramírez had publicly stated he feared for his life after receiving a series of death threats related to his work. 

A decade of threats 

From 2010 to 2016, four people, including journalist Humberto Millan Salazar, were murdered in Sinaloa. According to Mr. Ramírez, their deaths were related as the four shared the same source of privileged information that Mr. Ramirez used for his columns.

Mr. Ramírez saw a clear pattern in these deaths, and fearing he would be next, he fled to Mexico City, where he lived in exile for five years. 

Luis Enrique Ramírez Ramos

At the time, government protocols and mechanisms to protect journalists did not exist, so Mr. Ramírez reached out to Article19, an international organization dedicated to protecting journalists. 

“I feel the imminent danger that I am next because there is a pattern in four recent murders that I fit into,” he said in a 2011 interview to news media outlet MSV. 

A year later, the Mexican government established the Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists. As of April 2021, the government body counted 1,455 journalists and human rights defenders in its protection.

In the wake of Mr. Ramírez’s murder — the 57th since President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took office in 2018 — the National Commission for Human Rights condemned the act and called on the authorities to step up to the current state of violence. 

“Likewise, the National Commission reiterates its call to the Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists to urgently strengthen and expand its protection schemes,” read the statement. 

Mr. López Obrador had previously commented that the recent spate of killings of journalists is a result of previous administrations, saying that the killings are perpetrated by organized crime and not government officials from his administration. 

However, according to figures from his administration, most of the offenders in cases of violence against journalists and activists are public officials.  

Murdered journalists such as Lourdes Maldonado and Armando Linares, both killed in the first months of 2022, denounced death threats made by politicians, not organized crime, before their deaths. 

Mr. Ramírez was known for his columns where he criticized the local government and members of different political parties, often saying he never wrote about drug cartels in the region. 

“I don’t write about drug traffickers; I don’t speak neither bad nor good about the narco. But, neither does Humberto, and look, it was not enough to continue doing his work and, above all, to keep his life,” said Mr. Ramírez 10 years before he was murdered.