September 21, 2010
Funeral of El Diario photographer Luis Carlos Santiago. (Alejandro Bringas/Courtesy Reuters)

Funeral of El Diario photographer Luis Carlos Santiago. (Alejandro Bringas/Courtesy Reuters)

Mexican Journalists in Peril

"What Do You Want from Us?"

El Diario de Juarez, the leading newspaper in the border town of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico's most violent city, asked the warring drug cartels in a bold front-page open letter on Sept. 19.

"Even in war there are rules. We want you to explain to us what you want from us. What are we supposed to publish or not publish, so we know what to abide by. You are at this time the de facto authorities in this city because the legal authorities have not been able to stop our colleagues from falling. We don't want to see more dead. We don't want to see more wounded nor do we want to be intimidated. It is impossible for us to do our job under these conditions."

The editorial was published a day after the funeral of Luis Carlos Santiago, a 21-year-old El Diario photographer who was shot dead in a shopping mall parking lot after lunch. A young staffer who was with him was wounded.

Santiago's death was the second involving an El Diario journalist in two years. In 2008, crime reporter Armando Rodriguez was killed while waiting to take his daughter to school. His death remains unsolved. Ciudad Juarez is located across the Rio Grande River from El Paso, Texas.

On Sept. 20, the newspaper said it was not giving in to the cartels and published a front-page article on how the Mexican government failed to make a case against four gang members who were accused of killing 55 people and released them. The government issued a statement calling the motive for Santiago's death personal and unrelated to his profession.

Some newspapers, radio and television stations in Mexico's border areas have stopped reporting on the drug wars, intimidated by threats and violence against journalists. El Diario was known for its continued coverage, despite the threats.

Mexico is one of the deadliest countries for journalists and one of the worst for prosecuting crimes against journalists, according to a new report by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

After four years of interviews and investigation, CPJ found:

  • 29 journalists have been killed or have disappeared since President Felipe Calderon took office in 2006, launching a national offensive against organized crime.
  • Eight of those journalists were killed in retaliation for their reporting on corruption.
  • Drug cartels control the press in some regions, using intimidation and bribery to keep some stories silent and report other stories to make rival gangs look bad.

The Newseum's Journalists Memorial honors 23 journalists who have died in Mexico since 2006. Currently, 2,007 journalists around the world who were killed in the line of duty are part of the memorial.

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