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Mexico20 November 2006

Former Excelsior editor stabbed to death : sixth journalist murdered this year

Reporters Without Borders voiced dismay today on learning of the murder of José Manuel Sánchez Nava, the former editor of the daily Excelsior and in recent months a columnist for the daily El Sol de México. If it is confirmed he was killed because of what he wrote, it will bring to six the number of Mexican journalists killed this year in connection with their work.

“We hope the police will quickly establish whether Sánchez’s murder was linked to his journalistic activities, and will punish those responsible,” the press freedom organisation said. “We insist that investigators should thoroughly explore the possibility that he was killed because of what he wrote, especially in view of his recent revelations about the federal government’s role in the Excelsior’s sale. The investigation must therefore be transparent.”

Aged 53, Sánchez was found stabbed to death on the morning of 16 November in his Mexico City apartment by the woman who comes to clean. He has been knifed six times in the neck and chest. Investigators think he had been dead for about eight hours when his body was found. There was no sign of a break-in and nothing of any value was missing.

Sánchez began his work his career with the Excelsior in 1976. From 1982, he was its Washington correspondent until he took over as editor in 2004 and held the post until the following year. He has written several investigative books and for the past two months had been a contributing columnist for El Sol de México.

Launched on 7 November, his latest book, El Asalto Final (“The Final Round”), was extremely critical of the attitude of President Vicente Fox’s government towards the Excelsior before it was bought by Olegario Vázquez Raña, a businessman reportedly linked to the present government.

He claimed in the book that, while he was still the Excelsior’s editor, he was promised by Fox in person and by his interior minister, Carlos Abascal, that the government would step in to rescue the newspaper, which was in serious financial difficulties. The promises were not kept, enabling Vázquez to buy it for 536 million pesos (38 million euros) in a questionable manner. Sánchez also described acts of sabotage against the newspaper and its printing press prior to the sale.

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