CIUDAD JUÁREZ — As night fell over the Plaza del Periodista in Ciudad Juárez Tuesday evening, journalists on the border joined in a national night of protests against the slayings of members of Mexico’s press — and the near total impunity for their killers.
In the first 23 days of the year, three journalists were murdered in Mexico: José Luis Gamboa, stabbed to death in Veracruz, and Margarito Martinez and Lourdes Maldonado, both shot to death in front of their homes in separate incidents in Tijuana.
“It’s a very confusing and hurtful time,” said Omar Ornelas, a photojournalist at the El Paso Times who covers Juárez and worked in Tijuana before coming to El Paso. “It’s hard to be away while seeing (my former colleagues) go through this. And here with my new colleagues in Juárez, seeing how this event resurrects the emotions that they’ve gone through, it’s been very difficult.”
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Mexico led the world in the number of journalists killed in 2021, a dubious distinction that continues a years-long trend. Mexico has consistently been among the most dangerous countries in the world for members of the press. Other countries with rates of journalist deaths similar to Mexico are active war zones like Afghanistan and Syria. Reporters Without Borders ranked Mexico at 143, out of 180 countries, in 2021’s World Press Freedom Index.
“We look on with rage and indignation at the way that crimes against journalists in our country are committed with impunity,” said Ricardo Gonzalez, a reporter for El Heraldo de Juárez. “Far from there being any meaningful investigations to find out why journalists are being killed and to have justice, the numbers are increasing.”
Most border journalists are constantly aware of the dangers they face.
“We work under the premise that these are difficult conditions,” Ornelas said. “Regardless of where you are on the border, you are always in areas that (are under the influence of) organized crime. The risk is always present.”
Ornelas also emphasized how American journalists depend on the high-risk work done by Mexican reporters.
“We have to move the dialogue to what’s being required of journalists,” he said. “(Mexican journalists) always open the door for (American journalists). U.S.-based journalists cannot do the work without them.”
Cover photo: Juárez journalists gather at the Plaza del Periodista on Jan. 25 to commemorate journalists murdered this month in Veracruz and Tijuana. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)