Several reporters have fled Juarez. Jorge Luis Aguirre, the owner of a popular Juarez news Web site called La Polaka, told reporters he was threatened by phone while on his way to Rodríguez's funeral. He gathered his family and raced to the United States. A correspondent for the Mexico City-based Reforma newspaper also left the city. A reporter for El Diario crossed the border after being threatened and is seeking political asylum in El Paso after repeated threats.
In Juarez, where a journalist might earn about $200 a week, the newspapers have removed bylines as a security measure. Photographers wear Kevlar vests. Reporters have been ordered by their editors not to arrive at crime scenes before the police, and when they do go, they are told to arrive in groups, along with their competitors. Police routinely tell reporters to stay away entirely from certain crime scenes.
"Right now we have no permanent police reporters," said Alfredo Quijano, editor of El Norte. Because of threats, his two crime reporters have been reassigned to other duties, he said. "We're in a tough spot. We're trapped between the police and the mafia -- and they are making a sandwich of the journalists," he said.
Quijano said he is limiting stories to the facts of a killing -- the who, what, where, when -- and forgoing questions about the why. "We print the basic news. What the government says. So we are not publishing everything we know, which is not good. But we are trying to survive," Quijano said.
Some of the last stories Rodríguez wrote include reports about relatives of a top prosecutor in Chihuahua state, where Juarez is located. Rodríguez tied the relatives to the drug trade. The prosecutor is the same Patricia González who vowed to find Rodríguez's killer.
In the dark world of drugs and corruption in Juarez, speculation about Rodríguez's death is rampant. Some of his fellow journalists wonder why he would have been killed by the drug traffickers, since he had covered them for so long. Why now?
"Perhaps it was not even personal," said Jesús Meza, president of the Association of Journalists in Ciudad Juarez. "Maybe it wasn't anything he wrote. He was a prominent journalist. He was known. So he was killed as a symbol. He was killed to create panic and paranoia. This is a technique of terrorism. They want everyone to be afraid, because that will destabilize the society."
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Dispatch from Juárez
The Washington Post has a depressing story about the difficulties of reporting in Juárez. Passages of note follow: