Oaxaca police
National Guard soldiers stand guard in Oaxaca, Mexico, on June 24, 2020. The government of Oaxaca and Mexico's federal government apologized to the family of journalist Gustavo Sánchez Cabrera on June 17, 2024, three years after he was murdered. (Photo: Reuters/Jose de Jesus Cortes)

CPJ welcomes public apology to family of killed Mexican reporter Gustavo Sánchez

Mexico City, June 18, 2024—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the public apology issued by the government of the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca and the federal government to the family of journalist Gustavo Sánchez Cabrera, three years after he was murdered.

With the apology, issued on Monday in Oaxaca’s state capital of Oaxaca de Juárez, both authorities acknowledged “errors and omissions” made by public officials after Sánchez entered into a federally sanctioned protection program, which created circumstances that increased risks to his life.

“We welcome that the Mexican authorities apologized to Gustavo Sánchez’s family and acknowledged that his death could have been prevented had the state acted decisively and provided him with adequate protection, as he had been promised,” said Jan-Albert Hootsen, CPJ’s Mexico representative. “An apology, however, can only be the first step in a process that must lead to not only appropriate reparation of damages to Gustavo Sánchez’s family, but also the sweeping changes necessary to make the state of Oaxaca and Mexico safer for journalists. Never again must the Mexican state be complicit in a journalist’s death, whether it be the perpetrator or by omission.”

Sánchez, a crime and politics reporter, was enrolled in the protection program after surviving an attempt on his life in July 2020, when unidentified gunmen shot him near Morro Mazatán, according to news reports and video that Sánchez recorded at the time. 

The public apology was issued in a solemn ceremony in the state governmental palace in Oaxaca de Juárez at noon on Monday, with Sánchez’s widow Marilú Zarate, state and federal officials, journalists and representatives of press freedom groups, including CPJ, in attendance. It took place three years to the day after Sánchez, a reporter in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region in southern Oaxaca, was shot by unidentified attackers in his home town of Morro Mazatán.

The legal counsel to Oaxaca Governor Salomón Jara acknowledged that the state had acted slowly to provide Sánchez with police protection, even though this has been agreed upon with the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, and that state authorities had “minimized” threats against his life.

Tobyanne Ledesma, the head of the Federal Mechanism, which is overseen by the federal government, acknowledged that her institution had also made errors in coordinating safety measures for Sánchez with the Oaxaca state government. She announced a number of steps her institution had taken to prevent the same from happening again, including improved risk evaluation methodologies.