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Last November, veteran crime reporter José Armando Rodríguez was shot to death at his home in Ciudad Juárez on the Texas border. His murder prompted a fact-finding mission by the Center for Journalism and Public Ethics (CEPET) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which found that journalists in the region face a terrible dilemma: "censor themselves, go into exile or risk an almost certain death that will go completely unpunished."

CEPET and RSF visited reporters, newspaper editors and radio station managers in Ciudad Juárez last December, a time of relentless violence resulting from clashes between members of the rival drug cartels, Juárez and Sinaloa, and a federal government offensive against the drug trade.

According to RSF and CEPET, more than 4,000 people were killed as a result of the drug-related violence in Mexico in 2008 - 1,456 in Ciudad Juárez alone, the country's most dangerous city for journalists. "We are sick with fear. We know that if they want to kill you, they will kill you and no one is going to protect you," a journalist told the delegation.

Several media have resorted to self-censorship, the report says. The newspaper "El Norte", for example, has stopped publishing reporters' bylines, photos of crime victims and suspects.

The 2,500 federal personnel deployed to the city have not made it any safer - and "have even exacerbated the violence," says the report, detailing evidence of direct threats by the authorities to journalists, some of whom have since gone into exile.

Even in Rodríguez's case, where the murder was quickly assigned to the office of the special federal prosecutor for crimes of violence against the press, local and federal officials spread the word that Rodríguez was murdered because of his links to drug traffickers.

RSF said, "The authorities have themselves become another source of fear for journalists ... We urge the authorities to act with resolve in ensuring protection and attention to victims, combating impunity and enforcing discipline within their own ranks."

Download the report here:

Also see CEPET's report on journalism, drug trafficking and violence in Mexico:
(28 January 2009)

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