An online news site based in the beachside community of Playa del Carmen said its director was shot to death Tuesday, the second journalist for the Mexican news site slain in less than a month.
Playa News Aqui y Ahora said Ruben Pat Cahuich was killed on a street in the resort town on Mexico’s Caribbean coast that has been hit by violence.
“Now it is two from our team, Governor, when will the lack of public safety in our state end?” the site wrote in a statement aimed at Gov. Carlos Joaquin Gonzalez of Quintana Roo state, which is home to the resorts of Cancun, Tulum and Playa del Carmen.
The municipal government of Playa del Carmen said Pat Cahuich was killed outside a bar. The city said it respected journalists and freedom of expression and pledged to assist state prosecutors in investigating the killing.
In late June, a gunman killed Playa News police reporter Jose Guadalupe Chan Dzib at a bar.
According to a 2017 report by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, Pat Cahuich told the organization that in June of that year he had been beaten, detained overnight and threatened by police in Playa del Carmen due to his reporting.
He told the CPJ at the time that the officers warned him “to stop publishing articles about a local police chief, and that I knew what would be coming to me if I didn’t.” Pat Cahuich said police were angered by an article about purported narco-banners that were hung around the city accusing the chief of being in league with a criminal gang, CPJ reported.
Jan-Albert Hootson, CPJ’s Mexico representative, said he last spoke to Pat Cahuich in early July, several days after Chan Dzib’s killing. Pat Cahuich did not mention any recent direct threats against him but said the situation was very tense there, Hootson said.
“Quintana Roo, particularly the region of Playa del Carmen and Felipe Carrillo Puerto, has been a very dangerous place for journalists in recent years,” Hootson said.
He confirmed that Pat Cahuich was enrolled in a government program known as “the mechanism” that gives journalists and activists certain protections such as panic buttons, home security systems and in some cases bodyguards.
Jan Jarab, the Mexican representative of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said: “Today we have spoken with Mr. Pat’s colleagues and they told us about the risks and terror they face in doing their job … many of them have received threats recently, which is tremendously worrisome.”
Jarab said Chan Dzib had also reported receiving threats.
The European Union and the Inter American Press Association issued statements condemning the killing.
Playa del Carmen was once a sleepy beach town next to the island of Cozumel, but it has been hit by explosive growth and increasing violence. In January 2017, a shooting at a music festival in Playa del Carmen left three foreigners and two Mexicans dead. The shooting apparently involved drug dealing at the festival.
In the first six months of 2018, the coastal state of Quintana Roo saw homicides rise 132 per cent, to the equivalent of about 35 killings per 100,000 inhabitants.
More than 30 journalists have been killed in Mexico in the past 5 1/2 years, eight of them since the beginning of 2018.