Reporters Without Borders appealed today to the federal authorities to take charge of the investigation into a shooting attack on Misaél Sánchez Sarmiento of the regional daily Tiempo in the southern city of Oaxaca on 12 June, because of the possibility that it was a reprisal linked to a social and political crisis in which a US cameraman was shot dead last October.
“Mexico continues to be the western hemisphere’s most danger country for the press and the mood is still tense in Oaxaca, where light has still not been shed on the many human rights violations that took place during last autumn’s crisis,” the press freedom organisation said.
“Even if no link has yet been established between this attack and Sánchez’s work as journalist, score-settling cannot be ruled out,” Reporters Without Borders added. “Journalists continue to be very exposed targets in Oaxaca state, and the prevailing violence there has had a serious impact on press freedom.”
An unidentified gunman fired six shots at Sánchez as he was walking towards his car, followed by his wife, at around 8:30 pm. Hit in the face, neck and leg, he miraculously survived and was rushed to the nearest hospital, where his condition was reported to be stable. His newspaper said a car with tinted windows and no licence plate followed the vehicle that took him to the hospital.
The newspaper’s management told Reporters Without Borders that Sánchez wrote a report on 29 December 2006 about the murder of Indymedia news agency cameraman Brad Will on 27 October 2006 during violent clashes between supporters and opponents of Oaxaca state governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz.
Sánchez’s story blamed Will’s death on the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO), an activist alliance opposed to the governor, although the local authorities had initially been accused of his murder. Headlined “The APPO killed Brad,” the story’s publication was followed by threats against Sánchez. Nonetheless, no link has been established between the article and the 12 June shooting.
Tiempo director Wenceslao Ramírez told Reporters Without Borders he had no idea of the motive for the attack.