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Journalist murdered in Mexico, fifth in 2019

Playa del Carmen (Mexico): Journalist Francisco Romero was found murdered in this resort town on Mexico’s Caribbean coast Thursday after receiving death threats, authorities said. He is the fifth reporter slain this year in one of the most dangerous countries for the press.

Romero, who enrolled in the Mexican government’s protection programme for journalists and activists, was found dead in a pool of blood outside a nightclub here, his hometown, according to prosecutors in the eastern state of Quintana Roo. The state prosecutor’s office opened a homicide investigation, stating that Romero had filed a complaint April 12 over threats he had received.

‘Reporters Without Borders’ said the killing officially made Mexico the deadliest country in the world for journalists so far this year. Last year, the watchdog group ranked the country the third most dangerous in the world for the press, after war-torn Afghanistan and Syria.

Mexico has been hit by a wave of violence linked to drug trafficking and political graft in recent years, and asking too many questions about crime or corruption can be a deadly business.

Romero’s wife, Veronica Rodriguez, said he had regularly received threats over his work, which sometimes rubbed local government officials the wrong way.

‘He had received a lot of threats. Too many threats. The authorities in Mexico City knew about them,’ Rodriguez, 40, told this agency.

‘The last time wasn’t even two weeks ago. They threatened him saying that if he didn’t do what they wanted, they were going to kill me…. They said they knew where our son studied, that they were going to throw him off a bridge.’

Rodriguez, who has three children – one with Romero and two from another relationship – would not say who had made the threats, stating she feared for her life.

‘Reporters Without Borders’ said Romero had received a phone call at 5.00am informing him about some supposed news at a local night spot called the ‘Gotta Gentleman Club’. Although he had four bodyguards provided by the government, he had sent them home at 10.00pm the night before, it said in a statement.

Romero worked for one of the state’s leading newspapers, ‘Quintana Roo Hoy’, and ran a Facebook-based news site called ‘Ocurrio Aqui’ (It Happened Here) that covered local politics and crime and has more than 17,000 followers. He had been under the official protection programme for journalists since 2018.

Other than Romero, four journalists have now been murdered in the state of Quintana Roo in the past year.

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