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International Editor of the Year Award
Raúl Gibb Guerrero, Dolores Guadalupe García Escamilla and Alfredo Jiménez Mota Named Worldpress.org's 2005-2006 International Editors of the Year
Since 1975, Worldpress.org has presented the International Editor of the Year Award to an editor or editors outside the United States whose work best exemplifies the principles of journalism.
In recognition of enterprise, courage and leadership in advancing the freedom and responsibility of the press, enhancing human rights and fostering excellence in journalism, our 2005-2006 choice honors three Mexican journalists posthumously.
Raúl Gibb Guerrero, Dolores Guadalupe García Escamilla and Alfredo Jiménez Mota gave the ultimate sacrifice in their pursuit of journalistic excellence and freedom of press. Their courage, tenacity, and dedication in covering sensitive subjects, especially drug trafficking, caused them to live in a danger zone of threats and violence, which ultimately led to their murders. They led three very separate lives, but had the love of their country and press freedom in common.
By naming Raúl Gibb Guerrero, Dolores Guadalupe García Escamilla and Alfredo Jiménez Mota, Worldpress.org's 2005-2006 International Editors of the Year we hope to highlight the dangers Mexican journalists currently face as well as the newspaper and news outlets' ongoing self-censorship policy enacted in order to protect their reporters and editors.
Mexico has recently become the most dangerous country on the continent for journalists, according to the Center for Journalism and Public Ethics (CEPET). Other watchdog groups now list Mexico as the most dangerous country in Latin America for journalists.
Since April 2004, at least nine Mexican journalists have been killed or presumed murdered. All were covering organized crime or drug cartels. In 2004 alone, there were 92 cases of assaults, threats, or murders that targeted the press. Half of the fourteen killings of journalists in Mexico in the past six years (since the start of President Vicente Fox's term) have been in the state of Tamaulipas located right on the doorstep of the United States of America.
According to Amnesty International at Arizona State University, "nearly every newspaper and news outlet in northern Mexico has instituted a policy of self-censorship in order to protect their reporters. As such, criminals perpetrating violence are able to increase violent activities with little chance of being exposed by government officials or the press, thus contributing to further human rights abuses."
The kidnapping of Alfredo Jimenez Moto, and the horrific murders of Raúl Gibb Guerrero and Dolores Guadalupe García Escamilla were all surrounded by accusations of lawlessness, corruption, and drug trafficking. And while their deaths made headlines throughout Latin America and the southwestern United States, their cases have never been solved.
Alfredo Jiménez Mota of the daily El Imparcial in Hermosillo (Sonora, north-west) has been missing without a trace since the night of April 2, 2005 and is presumed dead.
On April 5, 2005, radio journalist Dolores Guadalupe García Escamilla was gunned down in front of the headquarters of Stereo 91 XHNOE in Nuevo Laredo (Tamaulipas, north-east). She died of her injuries on April 16.
On April 8, 2005, the editor of the daily La Opinión Raúl Gibb Guerrero was murdered in Veracruz State in the east of the country.
According to Reporters Without Borders, "In every case,
there was no investigation worth the name leading to the instigators,
thus establishing a climate of complete impunity." They went on
to report: "How do journalists deal with this violent landscape
in Mexico's border areas? Do they end up resorting to self-censorship
to protect themselves? Are local and national media exposed to the same
level of risk? Why have investigations into killings of journalists
not produced any results?
Alfredo Jiménez Mota
Jiménez Mota disappeared from his home in the city of Hermosillo
in the northwestern state of Sonora at about 9 p.m. on April 2. At the
time of his disappearance, he was engaged in reporting on drug traffickers
and organized crime.
Violence unleashed in Sonora since that date has so far cost the lives
of 74 people, 63 of them killed by contract killers working for organized
crime, according to figures compiled by federal officials and statistics
from El Imparcial. Some of the leads being followed by the Organized
Crime Special Investigation Unit (SIEDO), a dependency of the Attorney
General's Office, are linked to the work Jiménez Mota was doing
concerning the families running the drug trade in Sonora. Others point
to possible unlawful activities of local and federal government officials.
Dolores Guadalupe García Escamilla
On April 5, Garcia Escamilla, who hosted the program "Punto Rojo"
(Red Point), was shot repeatedly in front of her radio station in Nuevo
Laredo as she arrived at work just before 8 a.m. An unknown assailant
approached the reporter after she parked her car in front of the station.
García Escamilla, who was a journalist for more than 15 years,
was hospitalized in serious condition after receiving 14 gunshot wounds;
two in the chest, three in the abdomen, and the rest in her arms and
Raul Gibb Guerrero
Gibb Guerrero was gunned down around 9:30 p.m. on April 8, just 200
meters (656 feet) from his home, to which he was returning. He sustained
seven bullet injuries, three in the head, three in the abdomen and one
in the left arm. Police said the shots were fired from a distance of
about two meters (seven feet). According to witnesses, four men fired
about 15 times from two cars that were following Gibb's automobile,
which then ran off the road and crashed into a verge.
Cases Rarely Investigated
Crimes against journalists, committed in regions near the border with
the United States, are very often linked to their work reporting on
drug trafficking, corruption and the participation of state officials
in these crimes. The authorities rarely investigate these cases, effectively
creating a climate of impunity.
Mexican criminal syndicates are wreaking havoc, and stepping up their attacks on American agents who risk their lives on a daily basis, patrolling the border.
As reported by IRC Americas, according to former Unión de Periodistas Democráticos (UPD) leader Eduardo Valle, the root of the evil is Mexico's conversion to a "narco-democracy." Veteran U.S.-Mexico watcher Cristopher Whalen adds that "narco-elites" wield their wealth and influence over national and local politics in far greater proportion than legal corporations.
Whatever the root of the evil, three journalists are dead. Their deaths remind us that a free press is not to be taken lightly or for granted. Raúl Gibb Guerrero, Dolores Guadalupe García Escamilla and Alfredo Jiménez Mota paid the ultimate price for the cause of press freedom and as Worldpress.org honors their sacrifice the world should never forget their incredible courage.
The 1997 recipient of Worldpress.org's International Editor of the Year award, Jesús Blancornelas, recently passed away.