Lately, we have come to expect violence against journalists in certain regions, such as the Middle East. But here at CPJ, 2011 has also been troubling for the number of journalists killed in an entirely different part of the world, the Americas.
There’s no revolution to blame for this year’s deaths of 10 journalists and one media worker in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Peru, Bolivia, and Venezuela. In addition, Honduras and Brazil each lost two journalists. Luciano Leitão Pedrosa, 46, a TV and radio reporter whose program on TV Vitória, “Ação e Cidadania” (Action and Citizenship) had for seven years provided critical coverage of criminal activity and municipal authorities, before he was shot to death at a restaurant in northeastern Pernambuco state. Peruvian radio journalist Julio Castillo Narváez was killed by gunman while having lunch one day: Castillo’s station had asked for police protection after he had received several telephone death threats, but he had been granted none. Covering the news has not been ruled out as a possible motive in any of the cases: seven of the journalists killed were provincial reporters and six had reported critically on local officials.
Two of these slayings–one in Mexico and one in El Salvador–appear to be the result of drug violence. Emanuel Ruiz Carrillo was an incidental victim of drug-related violence when the entertainment TV host he was profiling for his paper was kidnapped and murdered by a criminal group in Monterrey. Alfredo Hurtado, who had frequently covered police operatives against gang members as a cameraman in San Salvador, was gunned down in a public bus on his way to work.
When journalists are killed it stifles reporting on sensitive issues like crime, official corruption, and politics. In places where violence is a daily occurrence, like Mexico and Honduras, we mustn’t dismiss journalist killings as simply collateral damage. We need journalists to help Latin American democracies stay truly democratic.