Crime reporter Norma Sarabia Garduza, 46, was gunned down in cold blood outside her home in the town of Huimangillo, Tabasco state, on the evening of 12 June. She was with a relative on the veranda when masked men pulled up in a car, opened fire and then drove off.
Sarabia worked for many regional newspapers including Cambio de Puebla, Sol del Sureste and Tabasco Hoy, a daily for which she had been working for 20 years. She also wrote for the news website Presente.mx.
Tabasco Hoy editor Héctor Tapia said she had received threats in connection with her articles. After a series of stories implicating Tabasco police officers in a kidnapping, she filed a complaint with the federal authorities against Huimangillo police chief Héctor Tapia Ortíz and deputy police chief Martín Leopoldo García de la Vega, and requested protection.
The ensuing investigation was closed in 2016 without any action being taken. The Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Journalists meanwhile decided at that time that there was no need for specific protection measures for Sarabia. Ricardo Jaciel Rivera, the spokesman for the Tabasco prosecutor’s office, told RSF that the office had not received any recent complaint about threats.
“In view of the possible involvement of Tabasco officials in this shocking execution-style murder, the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Crimes against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE) has grounds for taking over the investigation,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of RSF’s Latin America bureau. “Furthermore, given the wave of violence against the media since Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s inauguration as president, including at least eight murders of journalists, the Mexican government must take urgent measures to reinforce protection for journalists, especially in states poisoned by organized crime and corruption such as Veracruz and Tabasco.”
Marco Miranda Cogco, a reporter for Notiver and Televisa and editor of the Facebook news page Noticias A Tiempo, was kidnapped by two hooded men at around 8:30 a.m. on 12 June in the city of Boca del Río, in Veracruz state, while taking his son to school. He was found at the side of a road 17 hours later, alive but bearing the marks of physical violence.
While Miranda was still missing, his wife told local media that he had been threatened by Veracruz interior minister Eric Cisneros Burgos, who had offered him bribes in return for positive coverage and told him “you know what will happen to you” if he refused. Miranda had nonetheless refused, his wife said.
Miranda had just published compromising information implicating Veracruz government officials. His safety and his family’s safety must be a priority for the federal and local authorities, RSF said.
Sarabia was the sixth journalist to be murdered in Mexico in 2019. The other five were Francisco Romero Díaz, Telésforo Santiago Enríquez, Jesús Eugenio Ramos Rodríguez, Rafael Murúa Manríquez and Santiago Barroso. Sarabia’s murder confirms Mexico’s current status as the world’s deadliest country for the media.
Mexico is ranked 144th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.