Mexico City (CNSNews.com) – The killings of three journalists and two priests in Mexico last month forced a newspaper to close this week and have provoked national and international condemnation of the government’s failure to provide justice and security.
“We feel there are not the conditions of either justice or security to practice journalism,” Oscar Cantú, director of the newspaper Norte de Ciudad Juarez told CNSNews.com.
Under a bold headline “ADIOS!” the newspaper announced last Sunday’s edition would be its last. Its website will also be closed.
The media outlet served readers in Ciudad Juarez, located in the state of Chihuahua on the border with El Paso, Texas.
Cantú blamed organized crime and government corruption for ongoing violence directed at journalists. “We have lived the most dangerous period in our history, but there has been no progress.”
“The government is not providing justice.”
The media outlet’s closure follows the killing on March 23 of reporter Miroslava Breach Velducea who also wrote for the Mexico City daily La Jornada and the newspaper El Norte, among others.
According to reporting by the human rights and freedom of expression group “Articulo 19,” Breach Velducea wrote about local corruption, organized crime and drug violence, but these were not the only topics she reported on.
Three colleagues told Articulo 19 that Velducea had received threats in the past.
She was the third reporter killed last month, according to local press reports and the Latin America think tank Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).
Ceclilio Pineda Birto, director of the newspaper La Voz de la Tierra Caliente in the state of Guerrero was killed on March 2, and Ricardo Monlui Cabrera, director of the media outlet El Politico, was killed in the state of Veracruz on March 19, WOLA said in a release.
It also cited attacks on two human rights activists last month, one of which cost the life of a bodyguard.
“The scale of these attacks reveals an alarming deterioration in the security conditions for journalists and defenders as they carry out their important work and it’s a grave demonstration of the violence they face in the country,” WOLA said.
The think tank said the states of Guerrero, Veracruz, Chihuahua, Sinaloa and Oaxaca were especially dangerous for journalists and human rights workers.
“All of these states have a history of repression against journalists and human rights defenders and against the general population which has not been investigated or sanctioned.”
“Violence in Mexico is out of control,” the newspaper La Jornada proclaimed in an editorial published in its March 27 edition.
The newspaper cited both the “inaction” and “incapacity” of government authorities to provide justice.
It said government inaction results in an “exasperating impunity” that “feeds” uncontrolled violence.
Between 2000 and 2016, 104 journalists were murdered in Mexico. Eleven have been killed so far this year, said Edgar Cortez, a researcher at the human rights organization Instituto Mexicano de Derechos Humanos y Democracia.
Law enforcement data show 798 complaints were filed for aggressive acts against journalists from 2006 to 2017 but only 107 cases (13 percent) were investigated and brought before a judge.
Only three sentences were handed down, resulting in an impunity rate of 99.7 percent, he said.
The National Human Rights Commission reported having received 1,049 complaints from journalists between 2000 and 2015, of which only 176 were officially investigated by federal or state officials, Cortez said.
Only 17 of the complaints (1.6 percent) resulted in court sentences.
“The problem is getting worse. There is no effective response by government officials,” Cortez said
He blamed the attacks on journalists on “public officials and organized crime.”
Threats and violence against the press especially increase when the control of state governments changes after elections, he argued.
“The solution is to transform the federal and state police organizations to make them independent of the politicians and establish more clear procedures for investigations,” Cortez said.
Catholic priests face a similar crisis of aggression and violence in Mexico, according to the church communications group Centro Catolico Multimedial (CCM).
Two priests have been murdered so far this year, the group said.
Felipe Altamirano Carrillo was killed in the state of Nayarit, and Joaquin Hernandez Cienfuetes in the state of Saltillo.
According to the group, 17 Catholic priests have been killed since President Enrique Peña Nieto took office in Dec. 2012.
Seventeen Catholic priests were killed during the administration of his predecessor, President Felipe Calderon (2006-2012).
On its website, CCM cites a climate of “extortion” by organized crime in Mexico focused on buying the silence of local officials about criminal activity.
Priests have reported 520 cases of extortion during the first half of Peña Nieto’s administration
“The situation of violence has overwhelmed the federal and state governments and public safety organizations which are totally ineffective at ensuring public safety,” CCM multimedia director Omar Sotelo told the Mexico City daily El Universal at the weekend.