On Sunday, El Diario de Juárez published a front page editorial directed at the drug cartels of Ciudad Juárez, asking, “What do you want from us?”
On September 17, the newspaper’s photographer 21 year-old Luis Carlos Santiago was shot and killed, the second journalist from the newspaper to be murdered in less than two years.
Calling the cartels “the de facto authorities” of the city, the editorial states, “We ask you to explain what you want from us, what we should try to publish or not publish, so we know what to expect.”
The editorial also criticized Mexico’s current administration for its ineffectiveness in dealing with drug violence. In under 4 years, nearly 30,000 people have been murdered; at this rate, that number will rise to 75,000 by the time President Felipe Calderon’s term ends in December 2012.
Carlos Lauria of the Committee to Protect Journalists lamented the newspaper’s decision, explaining, “Even in one of the places where violence is worst… El Diario was still doing a lot of good reporting on crime,” but recognized that the editorial is “an indication that the situation is out of control.” While not an act of surrender, the newspaper explains, “We are looking for a peace agreement. No story is worth the life of anyone anymore.”
On Monday, security spokesperson for President Felipe Calderon stated, “In no way should anyone promote a truce or negotiate with criminals who are precisely the ones causing anxiety for the public, kidnapping, extorting and killing. All sectors of society should fight them and bring them down in a definitive way.”
This is no simple feat, considering the immense danger journalists face. Mexico was deemed the most dangerous country for journalists by the International Press Institute, with 10 deaths in the first eight months of 2010. Human rights activists also face tremendous peril, with one commissioner in Juárez revealing, “On countless occasions I’ve been threatened because of the torture cases I’ve investigated involving presumed assassins.”
In Ciudad Juárez, nearly 5,000 citizens in the entire city were killed in less than two years, despite the presence of 4,500 police and soldiers. Twenty percent of all murders in Mexico occur in the city.