Mexican newspaper closed down due to safety concerns

El Norte, a Mexican newspaper, was shut down by its owner because of threats to their journalists’ safety, murder


After 27 years, El Norte, a newspaper based in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, is closing shop. The decision came after one of their reporters, Miroslava Breach, was killed writing about organized crime for the newspaper on March 23, according to Al Jazeera.

“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,” said El Norte owner Oscar Cantu Murguia in a farewell letter, which was posted on El Norte’s website.

“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.”

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 38 journalists in Mexico have been killed in the last 25 years because of their work. The majority of the topics covered by the victims were crime, corruption and politics.

Among nations not experiencing war, Mexico is the most dangerous country for journalists, placing 149th on the Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index.

“Mexico is clearly going through a deep, full-blown freedom of expression crisis,” said senior program coordinator for the Americas at CPJ Carlos Lauria according to the Associated Press. “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.”

The deadliest countries for journalists according to CPJ are Iraq, Syria and the Philippines, where 179, 108 and 78 journalists have been killed in since 1992, respectively.

For comparison, Syria ranked toward the bottom at 177th in the Freedom Press Index. The United States ranked 41st.

“To be a journalist in America is difficult and maybe, at times, even scary, but usually your life is not at stake in America,” said Charles A. Dana Professor of Psychology Richie Zweigenhaft. “But in some countries, that’s been the case. It sounds like, in this particular case, there was enough that they shut down the paper.

“If you’re going to have a country like Mexico or a country like the United States that’s a democracy, if it’s to be a democracy, there has to be a functioning free press. For that to happen, a lot of things have to fall in place, but one is that journalists have to be safe to do what they do.”

In places like Syria, most journalism-related deaths have been accidental. The majority of journalism deaths in Mexico, however, have been murders.

In the United States, only seven journalists have been killed since 1992. At the same time, the attitude toward journalism has been changing in the last few months. Recently, President Donald Trump has called mainstream media stories “fake news” and has referred to journalists as “the enemy of the people.”

Just like the United States, Mexico is supposed to have freedom of the press.

“My first reaction is to say of course not, there’s no way that can happen here,” said Zweigenhaft. “But all bets are off here, as far as I’m concerned. It never crossed my mind that someone like Trump could really be president or that the election might have been very much affected by illegal behavior on the part of Russia.

“My hope is it couldn’t happen here, but my fear is it could.”