New York, April 10, 2008—Two community radio hosts who were also indigenous activists were shot and killed on Monday when gunmen opened fire at their vehicle on a rural highway in southern Oaxaca. The Committee to Protect Journalists is investigating possible links between the slayings and the journalists’ work.
Teresa Bautista Merino, 24, and Felicitas Martínez Sánchez, 20, were ambushed late Monday when unidentified individuals shot assault rifles at their vehicle near the village of Putla de Guerrero, according to local press reports and CPJ interviews. Three others in the vehicle, including a 3-year-old child, were injured, said local news reports.
“We urge state and federal authorities to conduct an exhaustive investigation that will bring all those responsible to justice,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “We will be monitoring the investigation closely.”
The two women worked as hosts and reporters for a community radio station called “La Voz que Rompe el Silencio” (The Voice that Breaks the Silence) in the Triqui indigenous town of San Juan Copala, 220 miles (354 kilometers) west of the state capital of Oaxaca. The radio station began broadcasting in both Spanish and Triqui on January 19.
Bautista and Martínez were coming from a neighboring town where they were telling people about the station, the general coordinator of the station Jorge Albino told CPJ. Albino said that the two women reported on the autonomous indigenous government of San Juan Copala and news on health, education, and indigenous culture.
State authorities have begun an investigation but no arrests have been made. The municipality of San Juan Copala in Oaxaca—where the women worked—has been autonomous since January 2007, but is known for heated and often deadly conflicts between indigenous and political groups. The two women were said to be vocal about indigenous rights and autonomy.