CPJ is honored to present its 2017 International Press Freedom Award to Mexican journalist Patricia Mayorga.
Patricia Mayorga is a correspondent for Proceso, a news magazine based in Mexico City. Her reporting includes stories on forced disappearances of indigenous people in Mexico, and alleged links between the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and organized crime. She is also a founding member of the Red Libre Periodismo (Free Journalism Network), a collective that provides professional support, networking, and ethics training for young journalists in Chihuahua state.
Mayorga began working as a journalist in 2000, covering topics such as health and education. Later, she began focusing on human rights issues affecting Chihuahua residents, including government corruption and violence and the killing of women in Juárez. Earlier in Mayorga's career, she reported for the daily El Heraldo. She has also contributed to the Ciudad Juárez-based daily El Diario and other regional and national publications.
In March 2017, another Mexican journalist, Miroslava Breach Velducea, was shot eight times and died on the way to the hospital. Breach covered politics and crime, among other subjects in Chihuahua. A note found at the crime scene read, "For being a snitch. You're next, governor. --The 80." Police say The 80 is the leader of a criminal gang associated with an organized crime syndicate.
Mayorga had received similar threatening messages and said she feared for her life after Breach's murder. She fled Chihuahua state with CPJ assistance. The state been a focal point of violent crime for more than a decade, with the Sierra Tarahumara region, which is home to a large indigenous population, one of its most violent regions.
At least four journalists have been murdered in Mexico in direct retaliation to their work in 2017, according to CPJ research. CPJ is investigating the motive behind the killing of two other journalists and the disappearance of a sixth. On May 15, acclaimed investigative journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas was shot dead in Culiacán, in the northern Mexican state of Sinaloa. Valdez, CPJ's 2011 International Press Freedom Award winner, covered drug trafficking and crime and wrote a number of books about the drug trade.
A little under two weeks before Valdez was murdered, a CPJ delegation met with President Enrique Peña Nieto, who said his government was committed to following up on investigations into attacks on the press and pledged to prioritize combating impunity in the murders of journalists for the remainder of his term. He said the safety and protection of journalists would also be a priority and guaranteed to continue funding a federal protection mechanism. The meeting was part of a mission to Mexico to launch a special report called "No Excuse: Mexico must break cycle of impunity in journalists' murders."