Unidentified attackers shot and killed reporter Norma Sarabia in the evening of June 11, 2019, at her residence in Huimanguillo, in the southern Mexican state of Tabasco, according to news reports.
Sarabia, 46, was a correspondent in Huimanguillo, a small town in Tabasco near the border with Guatemala, for newspapers Diario Presente andTabasco HOY. According to the news reports, unknown assailants shot and killed her at the front door of her residence. The Tabasco state attorney general’s office said in a statement released on Twitter June 12, 2019, 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 March and April 2019, she reported on a series of violent crimes in Huimanguillo, including several murders and a kidnapping.
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 alleged involvement of police in kidnappings. On June 13, Diario Presente reported that Sarabia received constant death threats and that she feared for her life, although the paper did not specify the nature of the threats.
Tabasco HOY and Diario Presente did not reply to a request for comment, and CPJ was not able to establish contact with Sarabia’s family as of December 16, 2020.
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 on June 12 that Sarabia was not 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), told CPJ on June 12 that his office was gathering information about the case.
On December 9, 2020, newspaper El Heraldo de Tabasco reported that a man identified as Uriel “N.” had been apprehended as a suspect in the killing. According to that report, the suspect had been a police commander and the head of a homicide unit in the Frontera municipality, and worked in Huimanguillo at the time of Sarabia’s killing.
Sarabia had confronted Uriel N. shortly before her death, and accused him of illegally arresting two teenagers and attempting to extort their families, that report said.
The Tabasco state prosecutor’s office confirmed in a statement on its website on December 8 that Uriel N. had been apprehended; the statement did not mention Sarabia’s killing, and said that the suspect had been arrested for alleged extortion.
CPJ called the state prosecutor’s office for comment, but no one answered.