Journalists throughout Mexico say enough to killings and crimes against press

·3 min read
A woman in Mexico City takes part in a national protest against the killing of journalists
A woman in Mexico City takes part in a national protest against the killing of journalist Lourdes Maldonado and freelance photojournalist Margarito Martínez. (Eduardo Verdugo / Associated Press)

Journalists across Mexico took to the streets Tuesday to condemn the killings of colleagues and demand that authorities do more to protect news gatherers in one of the world’s most dangerous countries for the press.

Protesters in more than three dozen Mexican cities hoisted images of slain journalists and chanted, “You are not alone!” and “Justice!” in coordinated national actions under the heading “Journalism at Risk.”

Triggering the denunciations were the slayings of two journalists within a week this month in the northern border city of Tijuana, long a bastion of organized crime, corruption and violence against the press.

Several journalists from Tijuana addressed protesters gathered outside the Interior Ministry in downtown Mexico City using a telephone and loudspeakers.

“We are indignant, we are angry, and we are frightened,” said Inés García, co-founder of the Punto Norte news outlet in Tijuana. “We want and demand that we have guarantees to practice journalism. ... We fear for our lives, we fear that another of our colleagues will be attacked.”

Since the year 2000, the press advocacy group Article 19 has documented the killings of 148 Mexican journalists whose slayings may have been related to their work. Many of the victims covered crime and the links between gangs and corrupt police or lawmakers.

Mexico’s northern border towns, rife with drug trafficking, people-smuggling and other rackets, have been especially perilous places for journalists to practice their craft.

Margarito Martínez, a freelance photographer, was shot outside his home in Tijuana on Jan. 17. Six days later , journalist Lourdes Maldonado — who told a presidential news conference in Mexico City in 2019 that she feared for her life — was also shot dead. The motives in both slayings remain publicly unknown.

A third journalist, José Luis Gamboa, was stabbed to death in January in Veracruz, the gulf state notorious for being among the most treacherous turf in Mexico for journalists to cover.

Besides being targeted for assassination, journalists also regularly suffer assaults and threats. Many have fled for their lives to other parts of Mexico or abroad.

Few of those behind the violence ever face justice. More than 95% of crimes against journalists in Mexico go unpunished, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. The relatively few jailed are often low-level triggermen, not the masterminds who ordered the slaying of journalists.

National protests have followed previous slayings of journalists in Mexico, notably the 2017 killing in Sinaloa state of Javier Valdez, well known in Mexico and abroad for his bold chronicling of the country’s drug wars. Valdez was gunned down in broad daylight on a street near the offices of the weekly newspaper that he had founded.

But the protests, press advocates say, have failed to stem the tide of violence against journalists or push Mexican officials to move more aggressively against those targeting the press.

“The major problem in Mexico is impunity,” said Jan-Albert Hootsen, the Mexico-based representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists, who attended Tuesday evening’s protest in Mexico City. “That hasn’t changed in Mexico even as governments and presidents have changed.”

Special correspondent Cecilia Sánchez contributed.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.