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Mexico a High Risk for Media
email this pageprint this pageemail usAgence France-Presse
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October 19, 2010



Under increasing pressure from rights groups to act, Calderon has vowed to push for legislation federalising crimes against reporters - a move that would place these attacks under the jurisdiction of federal police, widely seen as less corrupt than local forces.
Mexican cameraman Agustin Meza knows that each day he goes to work could be his last.

For more than two decades, he has worked at a local television news station in Ciudad Juarez - his camera capturing the seemingly endless stream of bloody images that have turned this border city into Mexico's crime capital.

Though he is an unarmed observer, Meza is also a target.

With over 28,000 people killed in nearly four years, Mexico's drug war is the most dangerous beat in the Americas - with at least 11 journalists killed this year alone, according to Reporters Without Borders.

In Ciudad Juarez, a story often means a crime scene, and a chance for criminal gangs to identify reporters. But despite the dangers, Meza is committed to informing the public about a brutal drug war that has been on the upswing.

"I have been doing this work for over 20 years. It's my passion and I have to continue doing it. I can't keep quiet about what is happening," Meza said.

President Felipe Calderon launched a military clampdown on organised crime almost four years ago but it has failed to stem the bloody tide of violence so far despite the deployment of some 50,000 troops nationwide.

More than 30 journalists have been killed or gone missing since then, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

For some Mexican journalists, threats are a near-daily occurrence - a way for drug cartels to demonstrate their power, control information and punish those who disobey.

The United States voiced concern for the safety of Mexican journalists last month after a reporter said US authorities granted him asylum, while others are increasingly demanding government protection.

"They feel they are on their own, unprotected, and there is a lot of reason to support that position. They are killed, they are threatened, they are abducted and their cases, for the most part, are not pursued," said Mike O'Connor, Mexico representative of the CPJ.

"It's very easy to kill a Mexican journalist and get away with it."

Under increasing pressure from rights groups to act, Calderon has vowed to push for legislation federalising crimes against reporters - a move that would place these attacks under the jurisdiction of federal police, widely seen as less corrupt than local forces.

"Criminal attacks on people in the media are unacceptable and they represent another reason why policies specifically designed to protect journalists should be established," he said recently.

For now, journalists eagerly await the changes as pressure continues in hotspots such as Ciudad Juarez.

The city's biggest newspaper, El Diario de Juarez, last month pleaded with feuding drug cartels for a truce after one of its photographers was killed.

"We ask you to explain what you want from us, what you want us to publish or stop publishing," read a front-page editorial.

Just minutes before the end of his shift on a recent day, Meza received another call.

Moments later, armed only with his camera, he was at the scene of yet another murder. The victim: a 23-year-old man, the latest in the list of drug-related deaths which have topped 2,000 in Ciudad Juarez this year alone.



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