Pablo Morrugares Parraguirre, the founder and editor of news website PM Noticias, was attacked shortly before 1:00 a.m. on August 2, 2020, in a restaurant in Iguala, some 120 miles south of Mexico City in the state of Guerrero, according to a statement the Guerrero state prosecutor’s office posted on its Facebook page on August 3.
The statement said two heavily armed men entered the restaurant and fired more than 50 rounds at Morrugares, who died instantly. A police officer assigned to Morrugares as part of a federal protection program also died in the attack. The gunmen left the scene immediately after.
PM Noticias covers general news, local and regional politics, and crime and security in Iguala and the state of Guerrero. Most recently, prior to the murder, the website had published stories about violence in the state, political events, and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Guerrero.
Several attempts by CPJ to reach PM Noticias for comment by message and telephone in early August 2020 went unanswered.
Before founding PM Noticias, Morrugares worked as a spokesperson for the Iguala municipal government during the administration of José Luis Abarca. The former mayor was arrested on November 4, 2014, for his alleged involvement in the mass abduction and suspected assassination of 43 students from a Guerrero rural teachers’ college on September 26 of that year.
In 2016, Morrugares and his wife were targets of an attack by unidentified gunmen in Iguala, according to news reports. Following the attack, the reporter was placed in a protection program overseen by the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which operates under the auspices of the federal Interior Secretariat (Segob).
An official of the Mechanism, who asked to remain anonymous as he was not authorized to speak on the matter, told CPJ on August 4 that his institution relocated the journalist to a safe house at an undisclosed location in 2018, where he stayed under federal protection until the end of 2019. The official said that Morrugares returned to Iguala at his own request in January of 2020 and was assigned two state police officers as bodyguards, one of whom died the shooting attack.
The Federal Mechanism condemned the murder in a statement posted on Segob’s website on August 2.
Omar Bello Pineda, a journalist from Guerrero and spokesperson for the Mexican Association of Displaced and Attacked Journalists, told CPJ on August 4 that Morrugares had been threatened in a video on Facebook, posted approximately two months earlier, allegedly by a criminal gang active in the Iguala area. His association tweeted on August 2 that the reporter had also been threatened the previous month on a so-called ‘narcomanta,’ a banner typically used by criminal gangs in Mexico to convey messages to rivals, the authorities, and the public. Bello said several other local reporters were also named in both the video and the banner.
CPJ was unable to independently confirm the existence of the video or the banner, nor identify the other reporters allegedly mentioned in both.
On August 8, Animal Político, a Mexico City-based news website, reported that eight suspects had been arrested in connection to Morrugares’ killing.
The Guerrero state prosecutor’s office said that the suspects were arrested in a safe house near Iguala, and that police found a burned car that was suspected to have been used in the killing, according to that report. The article did not elaborate on the possible motive of the killing or the identity of the suspects.
CPJ called the state prosecutor’s office multiple times for comment and for further information on Morrugares’ case, but no one answered.