Mexican newspaper shuts down, saying it is too dangerous to continue

With the headline “¡Adios!” in large type emblazoned across its front page, a newspaper in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, announced on Sunday, April 2, that it was shutting down after nearly 30 years after three journalists from other news organizations were killed in March. The newspaper, Norte, said in a letter printed on its front page that the killings and the increasing violence and threats against reporters meant that journalism had become a high-risk profession.

“Today, dear reader, I am speaking to you to inform you that I have decided to close this daily because the guarantee for the safety for us to continue journalism does not exist,” the newspaper executive Oscar A. Cantú Murguía, wrote. He added, “Everything in life has a beginning and an end, a price to pay. If this is what life is like, I am not ready for one more of my collaborators to pay for it and I am not either.”

The announcement came after Miroslava Breach Velducea, a correspondent for the national newspaper La Jornada, was shot eight times outside of a garage on March 23; a columnist, Ricardo Monlui Cabrera, was shot to death as he left a restaurant with his wife and son on March 19; and Cecilio Pineda Birto, a freelancer, was killed at a carwash in Ciudad Altamirano on March 2.

Mr. Murguía wrote that he worked to promote a free press for decades and tried at Norte to “inform with veracity, objectivity, honesty and transparency.” The deaths of the journalists “have become evidence of things that keep us from freely continuing to work on our jobs,” he wrote.

A commenter on the newspaper’s Facebook page, Erick Hernandez, wrote that the announcement “hurts in my soul.” He added, “The memory of your fight will not be erased. The citizens will always be grateful for your bravery and effort in making the world a better place for our children.”

Carlos Lauría, a senior program coordinator with the Committee to Protect Journalists, said Mexico was going through a “deep freedom of expression crisis,” adding that the killings and threats are having a chilling effect on the democratic process, reducing the flow of information to citizens and lawmakers and stifling Mexicans’ ability to engage in public debate. “There is a climate of pervasive violence and a terrible record of impunity, which is creating a climate where journalists are terrified to go to work,” he said.

The committee reported that since 1992, 38 journalists have been killed, with the motives for the slayings confirmed as reprisals for their work. Based on that figure, the group ranked Mexico as No. 11 of the 20 deadliest countries for journalists.

Organized crime is one source of the violence, but it sometimes colludes with public officials, so pinpointing responsibility is often difficult, Mr. Lauría said.

In an extraordinary response to the violence targeting journalists, another newspaper in Ciudad Juárez, El Diario, in 2010 wrote a front-page editorial in the form of a letter directly to the drug cartels that have been deemed responsible for the deaths of thousands, including two journalists from the newspaper.

“Explain to us what you want from us,” the letter said. “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.”

– edited from The New York Times, April 3, 2017
PeaceMeal, May/June 2017

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