Reporting is so dangerous in Mexico that a 27-year-old newspaper is shutting down

Deadly profession.
Deadly profession.
Image: Reuters/Jose Luis Gonzalez
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Violence against journalists in Mexico put a newspaper in the border city of Juárez out of print.

The owner of Norte de Ciudad Juárez, a regional daily with circulation numbers of about 30,000, wrote in an April 2 editorial (link in Spanish) that he’s unwilling to sacrifice the lives of any more of his staff, or his own, to keep the paper running.

“Neither the guarantees, nor the security to do critical journalism that acts as a counterweight exist,” wrote Oscar Cantú.

El Norte’s last headline, in big, bold letters above the fold, was “Adiós,” or goodbye. The paper had been operating for 27 years.

Cantú’s decision comes after the killing of Miroslava Breach, a seasoned journalist and an El Norte collaborator. She was gunned down on March 23 in Chihuahua City. A message left behind said: “For being a snitch.” Breach was the third journalist to be killed that month in Mexico. Last year, the country was the third deadliest for journalists, following only Syria and Afghanistan, according to Reporters Without Borders.

The violence against journalists has turned parts of Mexico into virtual information black holes. But in other parts of the country, such as the state of Chihuahua, journalists have pressed on—at great personal risk. Out of the 104 journalist murders in Mexico from 2000 to 2016, 16 were in that state. Most happened between 2008 and 2012, a period in which Juárez, the largest city in Chihuahua, was ravaged by drug violence.

Aside from the dangerous reporting conditions, the Mexican media also has to balance covering the government while taking money from it. Government agencies are some of the largest ad buyers in the country, and have been known to use that power to punish media (Spanish) outlets that publish unfavorable stories by either pulling ads or not buying them at all.

In his farewell letter, Cantú also cited the government’s unpaid invoices as another reason for shutting down.