Mike O’Connor, a longtime CBS newsman and advocate for the safety of journalists in Mexico, died Sunday in Mexico City. He was 67. His wife Tracy Wilkerson, Mexico Bureau Chief for the Los Angeles Times, says O’Connor suffered a fatal heart at home in his sleep. O’Connor reported for KCBS-TV Los Angeles during the 1980s and ’90s before heading overseas and working as a foreign correspondent for CBS covering the civil wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador. He also reported for The New York Times in Central America and the former Yugoslavia and for National Public Radio from various regions, including Haiti and the Middle East.
O’Connor most recently served as the Mexico representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based nonprofit group, working with journalists who continually face threats of intimidation and death in some of the most dangerous places in the country. The Times reports that O’Connor was in regular phone contact with reporters across Mexico in fear of their lives, and advised them on how they might go into hiding or exile. A colleague told KCBS that O’Connor was instrumental in persuading the Mexican Congress to approve a constitutional amendment that makes threatening a reporter a federal crime.