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World

Mexican Newspaper Shuts Down To Protest Inaction Over Journalist Murders

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The headline in a Mexican border town's newspaper yesterday contained just one word - adios. In a chilling letter to readers, the longtime publisher of Norte newspaper said he could no longer work and protect his journalists in a climate of fear and insecurity. As NPR's Carrie Kahn reports, three journalists have been killed in the past month, including one of Norte's senior correspondents.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: For the past 27 years, Oscar Cantu has put out a daily paper in Ciudad Juarez, just across the border from El Paso, Texas. Yesterday was his last.

OSCAR CANTU: I'm protesting because of the impunity that we've lived with journalists that have been killed and the criminals have not been brought to justice.

KAHN: Cantu says it's just too risky for his staff. Last month, his state capital correspondent, Miroslava Breach, was gunned down by two assailants. She was backing out of her garage, taking one of her sons to school, when she was shot eight times.

CANTU: The way - it was so violent. She was a very professional journalist, very brave, very valiant, uncorruptible.

KAHN: Cantu says he's filled with grief and can't allow anyone else to suffer like Breach did or as her family is now. In his open letter to readers, Cantu wrote that it has become clear through the deaths of so many journalists he can no longer promote a free press that informs with objectivity, honesty and transparency.

March was a particularly deadly month for reporters in Mexico. Along with Breach, two others were killed, one shot dead leaving a restaurant with his family in Veracruz, another shot in front of a car wash in Guerrero. All of these states are seeing an increase in drug trafficking-related violence. Carlos Lauria is with the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

CARLOS LAURIA: This is widespread. This is not in one single place. Across Mexico, there are many media outlets that cannot fulfill its job.

KAHN: According to his organization, 38 journalists have been killed because of their work since 1992, another 50 murdered under suspicious circumstances. Lauria says the situation in Mexico is dire, a full-blown crisis that needs to be a top priority for the government.

LAURIA: The climate of fear and intimidation where journalists and media are working is creating widespread censorship. And this is clearly putting the stability of the Mexican democracy at risk.

KAHN: In 2006, the Mexican government set up a special prosecutor to investigate crimes against the press. Lauria says that office has only resolved three cases since then. The prosecutor's office had no immediate comment. Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Mexico City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.