De Luna Ferral’s car came under fire from gunmen in another vehicle shortly before 11 a.m. in the small town of Gutiérrez Zamora, in the north of the state of Veracruz, as she was on her way to the state capital, Xalapa. She survived thanks to the bodyguards provided by the state of Veracruz, who fired back, repelling the attackers.
A law student, De Luna Ferral decided to take over the running of Quinto Poder de Veracruz, the news website founded by her mother, María Elena Ferral Hernández, shortly after her mother’s murder on 30 March. She has been receiving protection and living in a supervised residence in Xalapa since the start of April.
A few hours after the 23 May shooting, De Luna Ferral posted an open letter on the website to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Veracruz governor Cuitláhuac García Jiménez in which she wrote: “Thank God that an angel watches over me and that my bodyguards and I survived this attack.” She reiterated her call for her mother’s killers to be brought to justice “because I am very afraid for my and my family’s lives.”
“We hail the bravery of María Fernanda de Luna Ferral’s bodyguards and call on the Federal Protection Mechanism to carry out a risk assessment and provide her and her family with more protection,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of RSF’s Latin America bureau. “The Veracruz judicial authorities must also identify the perpetrators and instigators of her mother’s murder as quickly as possible.”
Ferral Hernández, who was gunned down in the street in Papantla, another small town in the north of Veracruz state, was the Papantla correspondent of the regional newspapers Diario de Xalapa and El Heraldo de Poza Rica as well as founder and editor of Quinto Poder de Veracruz. She often covered kidnappings and enforced disappearances, some of which were blamed on the local police.
The Veracruz police investigating her murder have carried out several arrests and recognize that it was directly linked to her reporting.
Mireya Ulloa, the editorial director of the newspaper La Opinión de Poza Rica, narrowly survived a murder attempt on 11 March outside her home in Poza Rica, a city 25 km west of Papantla. Two other women journalists, Maria Esther Cansimbe and Adela Octubre, have been missing in Mexico since 2009 and 2012 respectively.
In 2019, a total of ten journalists were killed in connection with their work in Mexico, which is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for media workers. It is ranked 144th out of 180 countries and territories in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.