Journalists Not Safe in Mexico

By R. Renee Yaworsky
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

Photojournalist christian Torres, Santiagos colleague, grieves at the scene of the murder.  (Photo courtesy of AP)
Photojournalist Christian Torres, Santiago's colleague, grieves at the scene of the murder. (Photo courtesy of AP)

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico—After an attack on two photographers, journalists in Mexico believe that they are defenseless against violent drug cartels, who target the media.  Many point the finger at an ineffective Mexican government that has been unable or unwilling to protect members of the media.

On Wednesday, Luis Carlos Santiago, a 21-year-old photographer, was shot and killed while in his car.  Another photographer with him, Carlos Sanchez, only 18, was severely injured.  Santiago worked for the most popular newspaper in Ciudad Juarez, El Diario de Juarez.  On Thursday, the newspaper published a front-page editorial that lashed out at the Mexican government for its weak response to the bloodshed.

“In a country where authorities have proven their incompetence, where can we ask for justice?” the editorial lamented.  “Who can we complain to for the dangers that journalists face every day?”  The editorial expressed frustration that many murdered journalists’ cases remain unsolved.

In 2008, a different El Diario journalist, Armando Rodriguez, was killed outside his home near the US-Mexico border.  In 2009, a federal agent investigating the murder was killed as well.

A New York-based group, the Committee to Protect Journalists, recently stated that over 22 Mexican journalists have been murdered since December of 2006.  During that period, President Felipe Calderon increased troops and federal police presence in the country in hopes of cracking down on the cartels.  The result, however, has been the opposite of what was expected, and has led to much criticism of the president’s approach.

Drug cartels target journalists in order to silence opposition, and some members of the media have felt threatened enough to quit reporting on the cartels.  El Diario, however, has continued tracking the gangs.

“The truth is,” El Diario’s editorial declared, “there is nothing we can do but keep reporting while feeling totally defenseless.”

A recent report by the Committee to Protect Journalists found “systemic failures that, if left unaddressed, will further erode freedom of expression and the rule of law.  Vital national and international interests are at stake.”

Ciudad Juarez is now one of the most dangerous cities in the world, with over 4,000 people slain in the past two years.

Santiago was the ninth journalist to be killed in Mexico this year.  His co-worker, Sanchez, remains in a serious condition in the hospital.

For more information, please see:

AP-Newspaper: Mexican media defenseless against gangs-17 September 2010

CNN-Mexican journalists shot Thursday may not have been intended targets-17 September 2010

BBC-Mexican newspaper photographers attacked by gunmen-17 September 2010

Author: Impunity Watch Archive