Oaxaca journalist shot and wounded

New York, June 13, 2007— The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the shooting of a Mexican journalist who had received death threats in connection with his investigation of the slaying of a U.S. journalist during violent street protests last fall in the southern city of Oaxaca.

Misael Sánchez Sarmiento, a reporter for the Oaxaca-based daily Tiempo, was shot twice Tuesday evening by an unidentified assailant outside his home on the outskirts of Oaxaca, 323 miles (520 kilometers) southeast of Mexico City, the paper’s director, Wenceslao Añorve, told CPJ. Sánchez was wounded in his jaw and left leg and was in stable condition today after surgery.

Sánchez covered local political news and was in charge of the daily paper’s investigative unit. He had received death threats in November 2006 after reporting on the killing the previous month of U.S. journalist Bradley Will, an independent documentary filmmaker and reporter for the Web site Indymedia. Will was shot while documenting clashes between activists and government agents in the provincial capital.

Añorve said he did not know the motive behind the attack, but believes it is related to Sánchez’s journalism. The local police and state attorney’s office are investigating, he said.

“We condemn the shooting attack on Misael Sánchez Sarmiento,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “We call on Oaxaca authorities to thoroughly investigate the attack, find all those responsible and bring them to justice.”

Tiempo is a pro-government paper that has criticized the local antigovernment group Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO), which clashed last year with Oaxaca authorities during a months-long conflict that paralyzed the city.

The conflict began last June when authorities used tear gas to break up a demonstration by striking teachers. That prompted leftist activists to take to the streets in a bid to oust Oaxacan Gov. Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. Media outlets were targeted by both sides in the ensuing unrest, and several journalists were beaten and harassed while covering the violence. The conflict peaked with Will’s murder in October.

Since 2000, six journalists have been killed in direct reprisal for their work in Mexico, and CPJ is investigating the circumstances surrounding the slayings of 12 others. In addition, five journalists have disappeared since 2005, three of them this year.

On May 9, a CPJ delegation met with Arturo Sarukhan Casamitjana, the Mexican ambassador to the United States. The delegation called on Mexico’s federal government to take concrete steps to protect press freedom and prosecute those responsible for crimes against the press.