Mexican crime reporter killed in Zacatecas, adding to 'chilling' journalist death toll

A view shows the cordoned-off crime scene of a murdered journalist in Fresnillo, Mexico

By Kylie Madry and Lizbeth Diaz

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A Mexican journalist was shot and killed in the central state of Zacatecas on Friday, officials said, the latest in a string of assassinations of media workers this year that has piled criticism on President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's government.

Juan Carlos Muniz, who worked for local news website Testigo Minero and was also a taxi driver, was shot in the head while driving at least two passengers, an employee at the outlet told Reuters.

Muniz's death, which was confirmed by state police, follows at least five other murders of media workers in Mexico this year.

Local activists along with international groups and U.S. lawmakers have called on Lopez Obrador to ramp up efforts to rein in the violence and protect reporters, including in Zacatecas.

Muniz worked at Testigo Minero for two years covering crime in the city of Fresnillo, said the other employee, who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation.

The state's governor, David Monreal, condemned the killing on Twitter.

"I have asked (local police) to investigate and find those guilty as quickly as possible," he tweeted.

Police said they would investigate the murder in relation to Muniz's work as a reporter.

Around 145 journalists were killed in Mexico from 2000 to 2021, according to human rights organization Article 19, making the country one of the deadliest for journalists.

The worst year in recent history was 2017, with 12 murders, followed by 2010, with 10.

Jan-Albert Hootsen, the Mexico representative to the Committee to Protect Journalists, said Muniz's death added to a concerning toll of killings this year.

"The frequency in which murders are occurring this year is chilling," he said.

(Reporting by Kylie Madry and Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City; Editing by Matthew Lewis)