Juarez newspaper vows to keep reporting amid drug violence

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, a border ciity that once seemed like a model for U.S.-Mexico economic integration, has become a dangerous place full of murder and violence. As the Mexican government struggles to repair the city's social fabric, inhabitants struggle to stay alive.
By William Booth
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, September 20, 2010; 9:25 PM

MEXICO CITY - Besieged journalists in Ciudad Juarez are vowing to continue covering the drug violence along the border, even after gunmen executed a second reporter from the city's newspaper last week.

The murder of the young photojournalist from El Diario de Juarez, shot in the parking lot of a busy mall on Thursday, was front-page news across Mexico. President Felipe Calderon's national security adviser denounced on Monday the continued killings, kidnappings and threats suffered by journalists, but offered no new information about the latest case.

The slaying of Luis Carlos Santiago Orozco, 21, comes two years after the lead crime reporter at El Diario was shot dead in his driveway as he was getting ready to drive his daughter to school. That crime has not been solved, and little work on the case has been done. A prosecutor assigned to the case was also shot dead.

On Sunday, El Diario published a remarkable and bold front-page editorial addressed directly to the warring drug lords who are fighting for control of the city and its lucrative smuggling routes to the United States.

"We don't want to see more dead," the editors wrote. "We don't want to see more wounded nor do we want to be intimidated. It is impossible for us to do our job under these conditions. Tell us, then, what you expect from us, as a newspaper?"

They added, "This is not a surrender. This is about a truce with those who have imposed the force of their law in this city, so that you will respect the lives of those who dedicate themselves to the job of informing the public."

The editorial led some news organizations to report incorrectly that El Diario was cutting back on its coverage of the drug war. The reporters and editors at the newspaper said Monday that it was just the opposite.

"No, we will keep on doing the same work as always. We have not changed at all. It is an intolerable situation. But we do not want to give up. We will continue," said Pedro Torres, the top news editor of El Diario.

Many news organizations in drug hot spots in Mexico have all but stopped reporting about the cartel violence. One of the reporters at El Diario, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of security concerns, said, "We feel totally exposed, as always after a killing, but more these days. Especially since we don't know who is attacking us. Is it the state? The federal police? The army? Or the narcos?"

Another reporter said, "We are still working, and our proof is the main story today." That article was a front-page investigation that revealed the Mexican government's failure to make cases against four men whom prosecutors, with great fanfare, had accused of killing 55 people in Juarez. As is common in Mexico, the four members of the Artistic Assassins gang were paraded before cameras, but they were later released, the newspaper reported.

Reporters in Juarez say they see firsthand that very few cases are ever solved. "There is an empire of impunity," one journalist said.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company