Police officers are seen in Veracruz, Mexico, on August 29, 2019. Gunmen recently attacked journalist Fernanda de Luna Ferral in Veracruz. (AFP/Victoria Razo)
Police officers are seen in Veracruz, Mexico, on August 29, 2019. Gunmen recently attacked journalist Fernanda de Luna Ferral in Veracruz. (AFP/Victoria Razo)

Gunmen attack daughter of murdered Mexican reporter Maria Elena Ferral in Veracruz

Mexico City, May 26, 2020 – Mexican authorities must immediately investigate an attack by gunmen on journalist Fernanda de Luna Ferral, bring those responsible to justice, and re-evaluate protective measures provided to her by the government, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Unidentified gunmen attacked De Luna Ferral and her bodyguards in the town of Gutiérrez Zamora, in the eastern state of Veracruz, on May 24, the reporter told CPJ. The attack occurred two months after her mother, journalist Maria Elena Ferral, was shot dead in Papantla, in the same state, on March 30.

De Luna Ferral told CPJ in a telephone conversation yesterday that she was traveling by car from Gutiérrez Zamora to Veracruz’s capital, Xalapa, on May 24 when, at approximately 11:00 a.m., an unknown number of gunmen shot several times at her car from another vehicle. The journalist was accompanied by several police officers assigned to her by the Veracruz state government as bodyguards after her mother’s killing, who returned fire and managed to repel the attack. The gunmen fled the scene and have not been identified.

“The bodyguards acted immediately and responsibly. I owe them my life,” De Luna Ferral told CPJ.

“The brazen attack on Fernanda De Luna Ferral is especially shocking as it occurred just months after her mother, Maria Elena Ferral, was brutally murdered, and because the journalist was supposedly under protection of both state and federal authorities,” said Jan-Albert Hootsen, CPJ’s Mexico representative. “The federal government should strengthen De Luna Ferral’s protective measures, but at the end of the day the best shield would be to find and punish all those who have committed violence against journalists in Veracruz and throughout Mexico.”

De Luna Ferral is the editor of El Quinto Poder, a local news website based in Papantla, a town in northern Veracruz. She continued editing the website’s Facebook page after her mother was murdered on March 30 by unidentified killers. El Quinto Poder—which was co-founded by Maria Elena Ferral—mostly focuses on local news, politics, and crime in the Papantla area and currently publishes articles on its Facebook page, as the main website has been offline since late April.

De Luna Ferral was enrolled in a federal protection scheme, coordinated by the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which operates under the Interior Secretariat, because of her mother’s murder. She was also assigned police protection by the Veracruz State Commission for Attention to Victims, according to the reporter. De Luna Ferral told CPJ that, although she had not received direct threats against her life in the weeks after her mother was murdered, her work as editor of El Quinto Poder continues to make her a target for violence by those responsible for her mother’s death.

Veracruz state authorities have issued arrest warrants for at least 11 people allegedly involved in the murder of Maria Elena Ferral and arrested six of the suspects in the weeks after her murder, according to news reports. The whereabouts of the other suspects are unknown. Several calls by CPJ to the Veracruz State Prosecutor’s office yesterday and today for comment on the attack on De Luna Ferral, as well as the investigation into her mother’s murder, went unanswered.

Mexico is the deadliest country in the Western Hemisphere for journalists, according to CPJ research. Veracruz is a particularly dangerous state for the press; according to CPJ research, at least seven journalists were murdered in the state in retaliation to their work since 1992, the first year the organization began compiling statistics on press killings. CPJ is investigating the motives of another 15 killings in the state.