Maria Ferral
(Photo: Facebook)

A Mexican reporter was shot and killed in broad daylight by two unidentified men on a motorcycle on March 30 in the city of Papantla. 

Mexican journalist Maria Elena Ferral was reportedly leaving a notary public office in Veracruz when a masked pillion rider on a motorcycle opened fire, hitting Ferral at least eight times before driving away. 

Ferral was rushed to a nearby hospital but succumbed to her injuries while undergoing surgery. 

Mexican authorities are investigating to determine whether the killing of the reporter was related to her work. 

Maria Ferral worked for the El Diario de Xalapa newspaper and is also a founder of the website El Quinto Poder where she tackled sensitive issues such as corruption and local police. She also published columns on her personal Facebook page, Polaca Totonaca.

Authorities have yet to present suspects or possible motives for her murder. However, according to a news site, a local political candidate Basilio Camerino Picazo Perez sent her death threats in 2016. 

Picazo Perez, who was allegedly involved in the murder of a former Coyutla trustee on May 6, 2005, publicly threatened the reporter in a restaurant

Ferral sought protection from a state commission for protecting journalists after receiving numerous threats and harassments. The government withdrew her bodyguards in 2017 without consulting with the protection committee.  

The Committee to Protect Journalists said the Ferral's murder only confirms Veracruz as the deadliest and most violent territory for reporters. They also urge local authorities to thoroughly investigate all factors that led to her death. 

The reporter's daughter said her mother's life has been in danger after publishing a piece on La Polaca Totonaca on March 12. The column discussed the murders of candidates for mayor in a nearby municipality. 

Maria Ferral is the first journalist murdered in the country in 2020. More than 100 journalists were killed since 2006 following the militarized crackdown on drug cartels in the country.

The Gulf coast state of Veracruz is considered to be a graveyard for reporters after multiple journalists were killed in the state.

In August 2019, a reporter named Jorge Ruiz Vazquez was shot dead days before he was set to testify before state authorities. He was reportedly supposed to discuss death threats he received from Actopan Mayor Paulino Dominguez Sanchez. 

Ruiz was killed at his home in the state capital, Xalapa. The reporter and his family were granted protection measures before his death but was never enforced. 

In 2016, 43-year-old Pedro Tamayo was killed by two attackers just outside his home in Veracruz. He previously published an editorial documenting acts of violence and social protest in his hometown. His work earned him threats from "forces of official power." 

Veracruz remains rife with dangers for journalists and activists despite changes in the state's ruling party. Miguel Angel Diaz, the founder of Plumas Libres, said the changes of party colors did not affect the low security for journalists. He also said investigations into the crimes are often stalled. 

"There are no advances," Diaz said. "There are no convictions."

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