Spate Of Muders Renders Mexican Journalists Defenseless
In a country whose climate is infamous for being exceedingly hostile toward journalists, a spate of murders has disillusioned an already cynical Mexican press corps, prompting journalists to publicly speak out about the dangers they face on the job.
Photo Insert: The journalistic union holds a protest to demand justice for the murders of Lourdes Maldonado, Margarito Martínez and José Luis Gamboa Arenas.
Across the country, journalists and human rights advocates demonstrated on Tuesday night in favor of press freedom. They held signs that read "journalism at risk" and paid tribute to their fallen colleagues -- those who have lost their lives for simply reporting the news.
Just this month, three reporters have been killed in the Latin American country, Oliver Darcy reported for CNN late on Jan. 27, 2022. Journalist Lourdes Maldonado López, who told Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in 2019 that she feared for her life, was shot to death inside her car on Sunday; photojournalist Alfonso Margarito Martínez Esquivel was shot in the head outside his home on January 17, and; Jose Luis Gamboa, the founder and editor two news websites, was killed on January 10.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) considers Mexico to be one of the most dangerous countries in the world to practice journalism. By the organization's count, nine journalists were murdered in 2021. Of those nine, CPJ has confirmed that three of those journalists were killed in direct reprisal for their work.
Somehow, in recent weeks, the situation has managed to become even more dire, CPJ Latin America and Caribbean program coordinator Natalie Southwick told me on Wednesday. Southwick said that journalists in the country, especially those who cover corruption or organized crime, are currently "thinking furiously" about "whether what they're doing is worth the risk to their families."
A disturbing detail in a Guardian story from earlier this month illustrates the level of worry: "In some regions, journalists have become so fearful of being abducted and killed that they take DIY dental impressions and leave them in the freezer at home before going out to report so relatives can identify their remains."
Indeed, fear is gripping even the most seasoned Mexican journalists. "I've never felt this worry, not just for me, but a fear for others, for those people I've been working with for 20 years," Aline Corpus, a Tijuana correspondent, told NYT.
"You feel like an easy target," Corpus added. "It's difficult to put into words what the killings have done," Vicente Calderón, editor of news site Tijuana Press told CPJ.
"You would think that, as journalists who go out every day to cover crime and violence in this city, we would have built up some kind of immunity, but even though we have gotten used to [violence], it has still been a terrible week with lots of introspection."