51 Norma Sarbia Garduza – Kaci Sullivan
Author: Kaci Sullivan, Pima Community College
Mexico has been named the deadliest country for journalists and had the highest amount of journalist killings in 2020. Since 2000, Mexico has had 119 killings of journalists, making it the most dangerous country for journalists (Rocha). Unfortunately, Norma Sarabia Garduza became one of the 119 people on June 11, 2019 (cpj.org)
Norma was born in Huimanguillo, which is a small town in Tabasco, Mexico and she was 46 at the time of her killing. Norma was a journalist that worked for two newspapers, Diario Presente, and Tabasco HOY (cpj.org). Norma worked for several other newspapers throughout her career and she was a journalist for over 20 years (rsf.org). Her main focus was reporting on crime and violence in her hometown of Huimangullio and before her death she was reporting on a series of crimes that involved kidnappings and murders.
During the last few years of her career, she and newspaper editors were receiving several threats against Norma. The kinds of threats Norma received were not made public, but Norma filed several complaints against multiple police officers and stated that she feared for her life (cpj.org). Norma went as far as requesting protection but in 2016, The Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Journalists decided that there was no need for Norma to receive protection. The Spokesman for Tabasco HOY, Jaciel Rivera, stated that the Tabasco HOY’s office did not receive any recent threats towards Norma, therefore which is why she was denied protection (rsf.org). Norma wrote several reports on police officers in Huimanguillo being involved with kidnappings in the area, which is what sparked the threats that she was receiving. Shortly before her death, Norma confronted a police officer, Uriel N., of illegally arresting two teenagers and trying to extort their families. Shortly after this confrontation, Norma was shot and killed at her home in Huimanguillo by two masked men, who have not yet been identified. In December 2020 Uriel N. was arrested as a suspect in the killing and the Tabascos state prosecutors office confirmed that Uriel N. was arrested, but the report did not state anything about Norma’s killing, but the report did say that Uriel N. was arrested for extortion. (cpj.org).
Overall, the motive for Norma’s killing was known. Norma covered many stories and wrote several reports on the crimes going on in her hometown. Towards the end of her career, she became more risky and outed police officers for being involved in kidnappings, illegally arresting teenage boys, and for extortion. Norma’s reports were highly important in spreading exposure to the kidnappings and murders going on in Huimanguillo and helping find suspects. Because of Norma, police officer Uriel N. was arrested for alleged extortion and some crimes were able to be solved. Since Norma’s death, suspects have been named but unfortunately no one has been named responsible for her killing and so justice has been served for her.
Norma was a very important part of Huimangullio and she strived to make her hometown a better place, and without a doubt, she did. She covered stories and did reports on crimes that some journalists wouldn’t do, due to the risk factors. Although justice hasn’t been served for Norma, the United Nations has released Goal 16, Target 10 of SDG. Target 10 states: “Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements” (sdgs.un.org). This target also states that “Number of verified cases of killing, kidnapping, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention and torture of journalists, associated media personnel, trade unionists and human rights advocates in the previous 12 months” (sdgs.un.org). This helps spread information on journalists who have risked their lives for their jobs and have unfortunately lost their lives, or have detentions. Overall, Norma was an amazing journalist who spent most of her life doing what she loved and she helped make her hometown a safer place.
“Another Journalist Murdered in Mexico, Sixth in 2019.” RSF: Reporter Without Borders, 14 June 2019, rsf.org/en/news/another-journalist-murdered-mexico-sixth-2019.
“Goal 16 | Department of Economic and Social Affairs.” United Nations, United Nations, sdgs.un.org/goals/goal16.
“Norma Sarabia Garduza.” Committee to Protect Journalists, 16 Dec. 2020, cpj.org/data/people/norma-sarabia-garduza/.
Rocha, Jorge. “Mexico Most Dangerous Country for Journalists: Report.” Anadolu Ajansı, 23 Dec. 2020, www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/mexico-most-dangerous-country-for-journalists-report/2085696.