Wednesday, September 2, 2009



Last November in Ciudad Juárez, Mexican crime journalist Armando Rodríguez was killed in front of his daughter on the way to school. In July, the federal investigator who was leading the Rodríguez case was gunned down, and less than a month later, his replacement suffered the same fate, say Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists

Perhaps the murders are coincidental - police have yet to determine if they are linked, but they are emblematic of the problems journalists face in the border city of Ciudad Juárez, where organised crime groups routinely threaten reporters who write stories that might expose their operations, say CPJ, RSF and IFEX's members in Mexico.

The bullet-riddled body of Pablo Pasillas Fong was found on 26 August in Ciudad Juárez, where he had been heading the investigation into the murder of Rodríguez.

Pasillas had replaced investigator Jose Ibarra Limón, who was killed near his home on 27 July. According to CPJ, for his own safety, Ibarra worked in a compound surrounded by thick walls approximately 10 feet high and was guarded by men armed with assault rifles. Ibarra was responsible for several sensitive cases involving organised crime in addition to the
Rodríguez case.

Not surprisingly, on 28 August, the head of the office in charge of investigating Rodríguez's murder resigned his position and left the city "for security reasons," according to CPJ sources.

Following Rodríguez's murder, most journalists in the city say they write mostly superficial stories about organised crime, says CPJ.

"We have learned the lesson: to survive, we publish the minimum," said Alfredo Quijano, editor of the major newspaper "Norte de Ciudad Juárez". It is well known that cartel money flows into local political campaigns, police are bought or scared off from investigation, and cartels are
expanding their activities into kidnapping and extortion.

"We don't investigate. Even at that, most of what we know stays in the reporter's notebook," Quijano added. And those that dare to publish "have to leave the country quickly."

According to RSF, the war between rival cartels that plagues the border city has been deadly for the media. Of the 50 journalists who have been killed in Mexico since the start of 2000, six were working in Ciudad Juárez. With 30 murders per 100,000 inhabitants in 2008, Ciudad Juárez is
considered to be the world's most dangerous city. And eight journalists have gone missing since 2000 in Mexico, giving it the unfortunate distinction of being the country with the most disappearances of journalists worldwide, says RSF.

Adding to the violence is the near-total impunity in murder cases. According to CPJ sources, only a small percentage of cases are solved, even when the victim is a police officer.

In the face of a wave of attacks against free expression in Mexico, the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) recently declared every attack on journalists to be a direct attack on the rule of law. It pointed fingers directly at the authorities: their inaction results in impunity and encourages those who use violence to protect their own interests, CNDH said. CNDH submitted their comments to the governors of all the Mexican states and the federal attorney general.

While a group of free expression organisations, including four IFEX members, welcomed the CNDH recommendation, it called for a "clear mechanism" to carry out this work, such as the establishment of a federal Committee for the Protection of Journalists. The group also reiterated its call for crimes against free expression to be federalised, and for the judiciary to conduct investigations and ensure transparency in the cases that are already under consideration.

Related stories on
- Officer investigating journalist's murder shot dead in Ciudad Juárez:
- JOINT ACTION: Four IFEX members express their position regarding the
National Human Rights Commission's recommendation on crimes against

More on the web:
- Second investigator on murder case killed in Mexico (CPJ):
- Special Report: Reporting, and Surviving, in Ciudad Juárez (CPJ):
- The enemies of press freedom to blame for journalists who disappear