A Mexican journalist who was enrolled in a government protection program after he was attacked by police was shot dead Tuesday morning in the Caribbean resort city of Playa del Carmen, authorities said.
Ruben Pat was the second journalist killed in a month from Semanario Playa News, the online publication he founded. He was at least the seventh journalist killed this year in Mexico, one of the deadliest countries for journalists.
Pat was shot shortly before 6 a.m. outside a bar in Playa del Carmen, about 40 miles south of Cancun, authorities said. They did not name a suspect or a motive.
As the site’s news editor, Pat published stories about crime, politics and accusations of government corruption. He had complained in the past of being targeted because of his work, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the press freedom group Committee to Protect Journalists.
In an interview with CPJ in June 2017, Pat said he was detained and beaten by local police officers after publishing a story about a banner hung by a drug cartel that accused the local police chief of being in the pocket of a rival cartel.
Pat said police beat him for about 40 minutes and issued a warning: “They told me to stop publishing articles about a local police chief and that I knew what would be coming to me if I didn't,” he said.
"I have hardly left my home since it happened,” he told CPJ. “Police cars have been driving past my house the last few days. I am afraid to leave.”
Pat was subsequently enrolled in the Mechanism to Protect Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, a federal protection program established in 2012.
Under the program, more than 360 Mexican journalists under threat have been provided with panic buttons to summon authorities and, in some cases, security guards. But at least one other journalist enrolled in the program has turned up dead. Last year, newspaper reporter Candido Rios Vazquez was killed in a drive-by shooting in Veracruz state. Like the vast majority of slayings of journalists in Mexico, the Rios killing remains unsolved.
Journalists and press freedom advocates from around the world on Tuesday called for justice in Pat’s slaying.
In a statement on Facebook, Playa News demanded that the governor of Quintana Roo state do more to protect citizens from growing violence there. The state’s homicide rate has increased by 132% in the first six months of this year.
“That’s two from our team, Governor,” the statement said. “When will the lack of public safety in our state end?”
The June 29 slaying of Jose Chan Dzib, a reporter at Playa News, also is unsolved. Chan was shot to death in the town of Saban, also in Quintana Roo state.
Jan Jarab, the Mexico representative for the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said in a statement Tuesday that his organization had spoken to colleagues of the slain men, “who told us of the risk and fear they face in order to carry out their work.”
“Many of them have recently received threats, which is extremely worrying,” Jarab said.
Last year, a U.N. team visited Mexico to investigate an increase in journalist killings. The effect of such violence runs deep, Jarab said, resulting in self-censorship in some cases and a mistrust in public authorities.