Journalist Lourdes Maldonado López stood before the Mexican president at a televised news conference and pleaded for help.
“I fear for my life,” she told President Andrés Manuel López Obrador that morning in Mexico City in 2019, explaining that she was locked in an acrimonious labor dispute with Jaime Bonilla Valdez, then a candidate for governor of Baja California state and the owner of a media company that Maldonado had worked for.
López Obrador said he would assign an aide to follow up with Maldonado, and then moved on. Maldonado returned to Tijuana, where she lived, and resumed her life as a journalist.
On Sunday night, Maldonado was shot dead in her car in a residential neighborhood in Tijuana, police said. She was the second prominent Tijuana journalist killed in less than a week.
Before her slaying, Maldonado and other members of the Tijuana press corps had been mourning the death of crime photographer Margarito Martínez, who was shot outside his home Jan. 17.
Officials say investigations into both killings are underway and the motive for either is not yet known. But the violence has shaken Mexico’s journalists, who lost a third colleague, reporter José Luis Gamboa, in a fatal stabbing in Veracruz state earlier this month.
For years, Mexico has been one of the deadliest countries in the world to be a journalist. And for years, in impassioned speeches and street protests, media workers have begged authorities to do more to protect them.
Article 19, a nonprofit organization that advocates for media freedom in Mexico, said in a statement Sunday night that Maldonado “had been the victim of previous attacks for her work” and had been enrolled in a state protection program for journalists since last year. Generally the recipients of protection are given police escorts.
Maldonado had worked for years as a television journalist for a Televisa affiliate in Tijuana. Her dispute with Bonilla dates back roughly a decade to when she was working for a media company owned by the prominent businessman, who served as Baja California governor from 2019 to 2021 and is a member of López Obrador’s ruling Morena party.
Maldonado alleged she had been wrongly fired by Bonilla’s company and had sued for repayment of more than $20,000 in back wages.
According to Zeta, a Tijuana news site, Maldonado scored a win in the case just last week, with the media company ordered to pay her restitution.
But her victory was clouded by the killing of Martínez, a beloved member of the city’s close-knit press corps.
Maldonado spoke a few nights ago at a vigil for Martínez, who had worked for nearly two decades for some of the country’s most prominent news outlets.
Martínez had recently had a public conflict with an independent crime blogger known for publishing gruesome pictures of violence on his website. On Wednesday, police arrested the blogger on drug possession charges. He has not been charged in Martínez’s death.
Cecilia Sánchez in the Times’ Mexico City bureau contributed to this report.