Relatives and friends of Mexican journalist Norma Sarabia, who was killed June 11, carry her coffin in Huimanguillo, Tabasco state, Mexico, on June 12, 2019. (AFP/Carlos Perez)
Relatives and friends of Mexican journalist Norma Sarabia, who was killed June 11, carry her coffin in Huimanguillo, Tabasco state, Mexico, on June 12, 2019. (AFP/Carlos Perez)

Mexican reporter Norma Sarabia killed in Tabasco; another journalist kidnapped in Veracruz

Mexico City, June 12, 2019–Mexican authorities must immediately and transparently investigate the killing of reporter Norma Sarabia and do everything in their power to ensure the safe recovery of journalist Marcos Miranda Cogco, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Sarabia was shot and killed yesterday evening at her residence in Huimanguillo, in the southern state of Tabasco, according to news reports. And early this morning, Miranda Cogco was abducted by unknown individuals in Boca del Río, in Veracruz state, according to news reports and a statement released by state authorities on Facebook.

“Even as journalists like Norma Sarabia and Marcos Miranda Cogco are brutally killed and disappeared, Mexican authorities appear unable to stem the violence that has afflicted the press across the country,” said CPJ Mexico Representative Jan-Albert Hootsen. “The administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador can no longer delay in putting forward a comprehensive plan for combatting impunity in crimes against journalists.”

Sarabia was a correspondent in Huimanguillo, a small town in Tabasco near the border with Guatemala, for newspapers Diario Presente and Tabasco HOY. According to news reports, unknown assailants shot and killed her at the front door of her residence. Early this afternoon, the Tabasco state attorney general’s office said in a statement released on Twitter that it had opened an investigation into the murder.

Sarabia primarily reported on crime and violence in Huimanguillo and the town’s surrounding area, according to a review by CPJ of recent articles published by the reporter on the websites of Tabasco HOY and Diario Presente. In 2014, she reported to state authorities that she had received threats from local police officers, according to a news report at the time, after she covered the involvement of police in kidnappings.

Tabasco HOY and Diario Presente did not immediately reply to a request for comment, and CPJ was not able to establish contact with Sarabia’s family by publication time.

Miranda Cogco was abducted by unknown individuals at approximately 9:00 a.m. this morning in the port city of Boca del Río, in Veracruz, according to a statement published on the Facebook news page Noticias A Tiempo, which was founded by the journalist. According to news reports, the reporter was abducted while he was driving his daughter to school.

Veracruz state authorities confirmed the abduction in a short statement published on the Facebook page of the State Public Security Secretariat and added that police are currently searching for the journalist.

Mirando Cogco is the founder and editor of Noticias a Tiempo, a news page that operates on Facebook and reports on general news, including crime and security, in Veracruz. According to two journalists based in the state who CPJ spoke with earlier today, he previously worked as a reporter for newspaper Notiver.

Miranda Cogco had told colleagues that he had been threatened in recent years, according to the two journalists who spoke to CPJ, who were unable to provide details about the nature of those threats and whether they were related to his work as a reporter.

A spokesperson for the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which operates under the auspices of the federal Interior Secretariat, told CPJ earlier today that neither Sarabia nor Miranda Cogco were incorporated in a federal protection program and had not reported threats to the institution. He asked to remain anonymous to be able to discuss the matter.

Ricardo Sánchez Pérez del Pozo, who heads the office of the Federal Special Prosecutor for Attention to Crimes Committed against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE), did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mexico is the most dangerous country for journalists in the Western Hemisphere. According to CPJ research, at least two journalists have been killed in direct relation to their work in 2019. CPJ is investigating four other killings to determine whether the motive was related to the journalists’ work. Mexico also leads the world in the number of disappeared reporters, according to CPJ research, with at least 14 missing journalists.

On June 18, CPJ will host a Press Freedom Summit in Mexico City, bringing together journalists, civil society groups, and government officials to discuss the crisis of violence and impunity faced by the press in the country. CPJ has invited Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to appear at the summit and to answer questions about his press freedom policies and his strategies for combatting impunity.

“The summit will provide a unique opportunity for the Mexican government to engage in a meaningful dialogue with the country’s beleaguered press to agree on solutions for the press freedom crisis Mexico faces,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon in New York, who will make opening remarks at the summit. “In the face of increasing violence against reporters, we need to hear from President López Obrador.”