Francisco Romero left his home in the early hours of May 16 after receiving a tip about a potential story. Shortly after arriving at La Gota bar in the beachside city of Playa Del Carmen, the journalist was shot in the head by an unidentified gunman and died at the scene.
Romero is at least the fifth journalist to be murdered in Mexico this year, making the country the deadliest in the world for news reporters, according to Reporters Without Borders.
The 28-year-old journalist known as Ñaca Ñaca ran a Facebook news site called Ocurrió Aqui (Happened here) that reported on local stories from Playa Del Carmen and Quintana Roo, which remains a popular tourist location despite a recent rise in reported violence.
According to news agency Quintana Roo Hoy, the journalist covered topics such as crime and violence in the city, and one of his most recent stories covered a shootout linked to extortion at local Cervecería Chapultepec where one person died and 11 were injured. Romero also frequently collaborated with other local news agencies in the area.
At the time of his death, Romero had been receiving protection from the country’s federal protection mechanism for journalists and human rights defenders. Prior to his death, Romero’s wife Veronica Rodriguez had explained that the mechanism had been sufficient as a means of protection.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) disclosed that he had been allocated bodyguards following the death of two of his colleagues at the former Facebook news site Semanario Playa News. The website was shut down shortly after the two murders in June last year. According to the report, the journalist had been abducted in the past and received a string of threats on social media, yet vowed to continue reporting on the area’s most pressing issues. According to DW, the reporter had also filed a complaint following threats to his life made on April 12.
“This brutal murder of Francisco Romero Díaz is a direct consequence of the unabating violence in Quintana Roo and Playa del Carmen, a state and city popular with tourists, but lethal for journalists,” said Jan-Albert Hootsen, CPJ’s Mexico representative in an alert released by the organization.
According to a press release by Alejandro Encinas Rodriguez, the undersecretary of Human Rights, Romero had failed to comply with the requirements of the protection program on the day of his death. In his statement made at the National Palace, the journalist had left his home that morning without informing his bodyguards of his whereabouts.
The reporter had also been previously provided housing in Mexico City under the program, yet he chose to return to Playa Del Carmen, the press release states. Beneficiaries of the program, Encinas urged, must help authorities carry out the security parameters.
Ocurrió Aqui has since organized a peaceful march against the region’s violence which will take place on June 28. Romero was buried today, whilst CPJ investigations into five murdered journalists within the state remain open.
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