CPJ Welcomes Sentence of Mexican Journalist's Murderer

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) welcomed on Monday the decision of a federal judge in Central Mexico to sentence the assassin of Mexican journalist Israel Vázquez Rangel to 27.5 years in prison.

Mexico police Dodge ChargerThe reporter Israel Vázquez Rangel was murdered while documenting a crime scene before the arrival of the Mexican Police. (Photo: Masti, Wikimedia, License) José Luis Martínez Aguilera, also known as 'El Pizzero,” was found guilty of killing Israel Vázquez Rangel in 2020. The 33-years-old journalist with the Mexican news website El Salmantino was investigating reports about human remains that have been found in a plastic bag.

Vázquez arrived at the crime scene, in Salamanca — Guanajuato, Central Mexico, before the police did and was preparing to live stream on Facebook when armed individuals in a vehicle approached him and shot him at least five times.

He was rushed to a nearby hospital where he underwent surgery but died several hours later.

Vázquez had been with El Salmantino for three years, primarily covering crime and security in the city. He had not reported any threats, and neither had the outlet as a whole, as reported by CPJ.

This marked the second verdict in Vázquez's case, following a 20-year prison sentence handed to Martín Eduardo López Orozco, also known as 'El Tacones,' on December 14, 2021.

Both convicted individuals were members of a local criminal gang.

According to the CPJ, the Special Prosecutor for Attention to Crimes Committed against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE) has requested an increase in the sentence for Martínez, seeking a total of 35 years. But the court opted for 27.5 because the previous sentence failed to recognize Vázquez's profession as a journalist as a motive for the crime.

“The second conviction for the brutal murder of Mexico’s Israel Vázquez Rangel is welcome news in a country where most criminals who kill journalists escape justice. However, it is troubling that Vázquez’s work as a journalist was not considered as the principal motive for the attack,” said Jan-Albert Hootsen, CPJ’s Mexico representative.

“Mexican authorities need to be far more proactive in investigating crimes against the press and ending impunity for those who target journalists”, Hootsen added.

CPJ has documented 28 unresolved homicides of journalists in Mexico over the past decade, surpassing any other nation on its Index of Impunity, which highlights countries where journalists are frequently murdered and their killers evade justice.

In 2022, 13 journalists were killed in Mexico, the highest number ever documented by CPJ within a single year in that nation. At least three of these journalists were murdered in direct retaliation for their coverage of crime and political corruption, while CPJ is investigating the motives behind the other ten killings.