López, a columnist for the newspaper La Verdad de Jáltipan in the state of Veracruz, was kidnapped on March 8 by gunmen in two SUVs, local authorities told CPJ. On May 31, his body was found buried in a clandestine grave in the city of Chinameca, according to local news reports.
The discovery was made after the Mexican army arrested a reputed gang leader who gave a statement confessing to the killing, news reports said. According to a local investigator cited by The Associated Press, the journalist died from a blow to the head.
Family members told CPJ that López had a long career working as a columnist for La Verdad de Jáltipan, and also as a stringer and photographer for several papers in the state of Veracruz, including the weeklies Noticias de Acayucan, El Horizonte, and Noticias de Veracruz.
López wrote a column titled "Con pluma de plomo" (With a Lead Pen) in which he frequently and aggressively reported on local drug trafficking and official corruption, according to press reports. López identified drug kingpins by name, a practice that is generally off-limits in areas of Mexico where organized crime is prevalent.
Two weeks before he was seized, two La Verdad de Jáltipan executives were held captive for several hours, according to local press reports. Journalists in Jáltipan and the nearby town of Acayucan have since limited their crime coverage, sources told CPJ.
Out of fear of reprisal, some media outlets distanced themselves from López after he was kidnapped, denying to CPJ that he'd ever worked for them or saying he'd only occasionally contributed a long time ago. But the head of the state Commission for the Defense of Journalists, Gerardo Perdomo, said López wrote regular stories and columns that sharply criticized local corruption.