The rampant violence against journalists claimed at least three lives in Mexico in March alone.
On March 2, unknown assailants killed freelance writer and the director of the La Voz de Tierra, Caliente Cecilio Pineda Birto, at a car wash in Ciudad Altamirano, Guerrero. Nearly 17 days later, columnist Ricardo Monlui was shot twice near the city of Cordoba.
However, it was the brutal murder of La Jornada journalist Miroslava Breach, shot eight times outside her home in Chihuahua on March 23, that prompted Oscar Cantú Murguía to shut down his newspaper, Norte, to protest the unpunished killings of reporters in the country.
The 54-year-old used to work as a contributor for the newspaper.
The assailants allegedly left a rolled-up piece of cardboard at the crime scene with the words “tattletale” — a chilling reminder that speaking up for justice and accountability can often have dire consequences.
Norte, one of the five local newspapers in Juarez, printed its final edition with “Adios!” written in bold, massive letters on its front page.
“On this day, esteemed reader, I address you to report that I have made the decision to close this newspaper due to the fact that, among other things, there are neither the guarantees nor the security to exercise critical, counterbalance journalism,” wrote Murguía in his farewell message. “Everything in life has a beginning and an end, a price to pay. And if this is life, I am not prepared for any more of my collaborators to pay it, nor with my own person.”
Norte was founded 27 years ago, and since then, its reporters have been in a constant line of fire. But Breach’s untimely death made him realize the true dangers of this profession.
“For me, a free press is a pillar of democracy,” Murguía continued. “If I can no longer do the type of journalism that I want to do… I cannot accept it anymore. Enough.”
It was a bold decision on Murguía’s part — not only because he is shutting down his business as a protest against the ongoing killings, but also because his move puts nearly 150 people out of work.
“I would rather they lose their jobs than lose their lives,” the owner commented.
Murguía said Norte tried to expose corruption and those doing harm to the city, which has long been the center of violence and cartel activity, but authorities made it difficult for him to continue his work by “the arrogant refusal to pay debts contracted for the provision of services.”
Since 1992, at least 38 journalists have been killed in Mexico for motives confirmed as related to their work, according the New York-based media advocacy group Committee to Protect Journalists.
During the same period, 50 more reporters were murdered for reasons that remain unclear.
“Mexico is clearly going through a deep, full-blown freedom of expression crisis,” said Carlos Lauria, senior program coordinator for the Americas at CPJ. “It’s affecting Mexicans, not only journalists, because the fact that a newspaper closes is depriving people of information that they need in order to take informed decisions.”
Reporters Without Borders listed Mexico 149th in its list of countries based on press freedom.
In an editorial after Breach’s fatal shooting, Norte challenged Chihuahua Gov. Javier Corral to ensure her murderers were punished.
"Miroslava was an exemplary journalist, rigorous in her professional work, upright, of great values, a fighting woman... Clinging to her ideals, today we raise a demand for justice for a death that should not have occurred, for a family that has been orphaned, for an injured profession, undermined by criminal and institutional violence," the newspaper said.
Unfortunately, just like several other similar crimes, authorities haven't solved the journalists' murders.