Reporters Without Borders is appalled by yesterday’s fatal shooting of a newspaper photographer in Ciudad Juárez, a troubled city on Mexico’s northern border with the United States. He was the 11th journalist to be murdered in Mexico this year.
Luis Carlos Santiago Orozco, a trainee photographer with El Diario, a local daily, was shot dead in his car by unidentified gunmen in the car park of a shopping centre located near the newspaper. Carlos Sánchez Colunga, a fellow trainee photographer with the same newspaper, sustained serious gunshot wounds in the attack and is reported to be in a serious condition.
The shooting was carried out shortly before 3 p.m. in the outside parking area of the Rio Grande shopping centre by gunmen who immediately left. According to initial reports, it bore all the hallmarks of a contract-style killing carried out on behalf of one of Mexico’s warring drug cartels.
Reporters Without Borders offers its condolences to the family of Santiago, who had just turned 21. Its thoughts are also with Sánchez and hopes he will have a speedy recovery.
The motive for the attack is unclear. The newspaper had not received any threats and the two victims were just trainees and were not working on any particular story. Editor Pedro Torres said Santiago started work as a trainee in May and was due to have been hired as full employee on 20 September. Sánchez began working as a trainee a few weeks ago. They had just spent the morning following a photography course at the newspaper. “They were not covering any event,” Torres said. “We do not know who could be behind this attack.”
The level of violence and mayhem is staggering in many parts of Mexico including Cuidad Juárez, where the death toll of the past two years is nearly 4,000. It affects the population in general and journalists in particular. Reporters Without Borders supports the call for special protection for journalists which Frank La Rue, the United Nations special rapporteur for freedom of expression, made during a visit to Mexico last month.
Reporters Without Borders also urges President Felipe Calderón’s government to revise its plan for combating impunity, which continues to be ineffective as yesterday’s tragedy has again shown. Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard raised the problem of protecting journalists, especially in countries such as Mexico, during a meeting in June with UN high commissioner for human rights Navanethem Pillay.
Santiago’s murder came just 20 days after a change of government in Chihuahua, the state in which Ciudad Juárez is located. It was also nearly two years after the 13 November 2008 murder of El Diario reporter José Armando Rodríguez. The investigation into Rodríguez’s murder never produced any results, despite Chihuahua attorney general Patricia González Rodríguez’s promises.
El Diario editor Pedro Torres told Reporters Without Borders he hoped the investigation into Santiago’s death might lead somewhere because “unlike Armando’s murder, which took place outside this home, this time it took place in a public place with surveillance cameras and in the presence of witnesses.”
A total of 68 journalists and media workers have been killed in Mexico since 2000, while another 11 have gone missing since 2003. Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in Latin America for press freedom and one of the deadliest places in the world for journalists.