Oscar Cantu, director of the Ciudad Juárez-based newspaper Norte, wrote Sunday in an article titled "¡Adiós!" that Miroslava Breach's slaying last month led him to reflect on the dangers of practicing journalism in the region, where "high risk is the main ingredient."
Breach, 54, who wrote for the newspapers Norte and La Jornada, was found dead in her vehicle with multiple gunshot wounds to the head on March 23 in the city of Chihuahua, capital of the state of the same name.
Ciudad Juárez, located in Chihuahua state on the US border with Texas, was for years one of the bloodiest battlegrounds in Mexico as drug cartels fought over lucrative smuggling routes into the United States.
Breach reported on organized crime, drug trafficking and corruption during a 20-year career as a journalist in northern Mexico.
She had recently published a report about a conflict between leaders of the La Linea group, part of the powerful Juárez cartel.
“She was fearless,” says Chris Lopez, a former editor at Norte and also at the El Paso Times. Lopez says he worked with many, very good journalists over the course of his 35 years in US and Mexican newsrooms, and that journalist Breach, “was at the top of the list in her drive for facts and for the truth. Really she was Mexican at heart and Mexican journalists want something better for their country, for the people who live there every day, particularly in Ciudad Juárez and the state of Chihuahua. That’s what her passion was, to hold power accountable.”
Lopez says he admired the slain journalist, who worked day after day despite the risk documenting how the drug cartels were eroding society, “knowing the dangers of her reporting lines, knowing that she was even putting her life in jeopardy.” Lopez remembers how the single mother used to bring her young son in to the Norte newsroom, and that the boy “admired his mother, and that is frankly what is very sad about her death.”
La Cronica de Hoy newspaper reports that “10 journalists were murdered in Mexico in 2016 and that none of the culprits had been brought to justice.” Since 2000, some 123 reporters have been killed. Most of these crimes against journalists have gone unpunished. “I hold the cartels, the feuding drug cartels in Ciudad Juárez responsible," Lopex says. "I think there is at times collusion that goes on between government and cartel leaders so I don’t think anyone’s hands are clean when it comes to the violence against journalists in Mexico.”
In his farewell edition, Cantu wrote: "Deadly attacks as well as impunity in crimes against journalists have become evident, preventing us to freely continue to do our job. ... This newspaper that you have in your hands will be the last print edition that NORTE of Ciudad Juárez will publish."
Cantu also blamed the shuttering on the "irresponsible noncompliance" of government offices that had failed to pay for ads in the paper.
"Everything in life has a beginning and an end, a price to pay. And if this is how life is, I'm not willing to have another journalist pay for it" with their life, Cantu wrote.
Breach is the third reporter murdered in one month in Mexico, the third-most dangerous country in the world for journalists after Syria and Afghanistan, according to the rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
A fourth journalist was fired upon in the eastern state of Veracruz just days after Breach's murder, RSF said.
A record 11 journalists were murdered in Mexico in 2016, according to the rights group Article 19.
Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.