The director of the Noticias Minuto a Minuto news website and Panorama Pacífico TV in the southern state of Oaxaca, Gustavo Sánchez Cabrera was in close contact with RSF in the weeks prior to his death. A specialist in covering local politics, crime and court cases, he knew another attack against him was imminent and he feared for his life.
He was shot by gunmen yesterday morning while riding a motorcycle with his son near Morro de Mazatán, a Pacific coast locality that is 40 km from the city of Tehuantepec, in the southeast of Oaxaca state.
The Mexican authorities failed Sánchez twice. After he was the target of a murder attempt outside his home in July 2020, the Oaxaca state prosecutor’s office issued a warrant for the arrest of his assailant, named as Esteban de la Cruz Lagunas, but the warrant was never executed.
Since then, he had constantly reported receiving threats in connection with his journalism. After ignoring his initial requests for protection, the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Journalists finally agreed last month to provide him with surveillance outside his home, an escort during his movements and the loan of a bullet-proof vest.
But these measures were not implemented and RSF’s representative in Mexico, Balbina Flores, was pressing the Federal Mechanism to provide him with protection as a matter of urgency until the day before his murder.
The Oaxaca state prosecutor’s office has said it will conduct an exhaustive investigation into Sánchez’s murder.
“The Mexican state was aware of the risks that Gustavo Sánchez Cabrera was running but did not act in time, a tragic omission that cost a man’s life,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of RSF’s Latin America bureau. “It was a matter of public knowledge that Sánchez’s reporting was annoying certain people and putting him in danger. The Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Journalists must overhaul its system of emergency measures.”
RSF has meanwhile learned that Felipe Enrique García García, a former public radio journalist who had recently got involved in politics, was found shot dead yesterday in Metepec, a municipality 50 km west of the centre of Mexico City, after being reported missing the previous evening. RSF is still gathering information with the aim of establishing if his murder was linked to his journalism.
Sánchez was the second Mexican journalist to be murdered in apparent connection with their reporting in 2021, following Benjamín Morales Hernández, a local news website editor whose body was found with gunshot injuries at a roadside in the northwestern state of Sonora state on 3 May.
Mexico is ranked 143rd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.