MEXICO CITY – Photojournalist Ruben Espinosa, who was murdered along with four women last week, felt he was being followed in Mexico City, where he moved from the Gulf state of Veracruz in early June fearing for his life, colleagues told EFE.
Espinosa expressed concern last week that he was being pursued by someone in the capital, Cuartoscuro photo agency director Pedro Valtierra said.
“He felt they were following him, watching him” in the Federal District even though he acknowledged that it might just be “paranoia,” Valtierra, whose agency employed Espinosa, said.
A man went up to Espinosa recently at a restaurant and asked him if he was the photographer who had fled from Veracruz, Valtierra said.
Espinosa told the unidentified man that he was, prompting the stranger to reply that “you should know that we’re here,” Valtierra said.
The incident left the 31-year-old photographer “very concerned” because he had left Xalapa, the capital of Veracruz, because he was being harassed and feared for his life, the Cuartoscuro director said.
Espinosa indicated on several occasions that he thought Xalapa police officers were behind the threats and intimidation, Valtierra said.
The press is in a “state of emergency” in Veracruz, where 14 journalists have been killed since Gov. Javier Duarte took office in 2010, with reporters experiencing “a situation of impressive lack of protection,” Valtierra said.
Espinosa’s body was found on Friday night in an apartment in the central Mexico City neighborhood of Narvarte.
The photojournalist appears to have been tortured and was killed gangland style.
Nadia Vera, a friend of the photographer; a 29-year-old Colombian woman; a makeup artist from the northern state of Baja California; and a domestic worker were also killed.
Proceso magazine editor Rafael Rodriguez told Radio Formula that it was unfortunate that the Federal District Attorney’s Office stated that Espinosa moved to the capital seeking employment opportunities.
“I’m concerned that the investigation started with some distortion,” said Rodriguez, whose magazine also employed Espinosa.
The killing of Proceso correspondent Regina Martinez in Veracruz three years ago has not been fully cleared up and Duarte recently made threatening remarks aimed at journalists, Rodriguez said.
The governor accused some journalists at a recent dinner with the press of having links to drug cartels and urged them to “(behave) well.”
“We all know who’s on the wrong path,” Duarte said, adding that “hard times are coming” because the state government is going to shake “the tree and a lot of rotten apples are going to fall.”
A total of 102 journalists were murdered between 2000 and 2014 in Mexico, making it one of the most dangerous countries in the world for members of the media, the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Crimes against Freedom of Expression, or FEADLE, said.