Watch CBS News

Surge in journalist murders in Mexico fuels public outcry

Journalist killings cause uproar
Killings of four journalists cause uproar in Mexico 03:59

What's happening in Mexico can be described as a war on truth, except one side has AK-47 machine guns and grenade launchers while the other is armed with notepads and cameras.

A surge in journalist murders is causing an uproar in the country, sparking public outcry for protection for the nation's reporters. 

Nine journalists were murdered in Mexico last year, and four were victims of targeted killings in January alone. Two of the latest victims were killed in the city of Tijuana, which is just south of San Diego and has one of the highest murder rates in the world.

A public mass was offered in Tijuana on Sunday for news photographer Margarito Martinez and veteran reporter Lourdes Maldonado Lopez, who were executed only six days apart. In a news conference in 2019, Maldonado Lopez told Mexico's president she feared for her life.

At least 148 journalists have been killed in Mexico since 2000, and over 90% of those murders remain unpunished, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Most journalists are often targeted for exposing corrupt officials and criminal gangs, the committee has said.

Guillermo Arias, whose photographs chronicle life and death in the streets of Tijuana, worked with Martinez for many years. He recalled the painful experience of covering the murder of his friend and fellow journalist.

"His daughter arrived and asked me not to photograph her dad's body," Arias told CBS News.

Despite the challenges, Aimee Melo, the only female crime photographer in Tijuana, remains committed to her work. CBS News correspondent Enrique Acevedo tagged along as she reported for Punto Norte, a local news outlet specializing in crime stories, the busiest beat in town.

"You're more afraid of staying quiet?" Acevedo asked her.

"Exactly. I would be more afraid of not facing the reality," Melo said.

The day Acevedo rode along with her, she rushed from one story to the other, covering a migrant camp, a fire and a homicide.

"Danger is always around the corner here," Melo said.

In a recent tweet, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Ken Salazar, sent his condolences to the families of the journalists killed this year. But many in Mexico are asking for more than thoughts and prayers. 

A report by the U.S. Department of Justice found that as many as 70% of all the guns used in violent crimes in Mexico are traced back to the U.S. 

Mexico's government filed a lawsuit last August accusing gun manufacturers in the U.S. of "actively facilitating the unlawful trafficking of their guns to drug cartels and other criminals in Mexico."

Thirteen U.S. states and Washington, D.C. have expressed support for the lawsuit brought by the Mexican government. 

While CBS News was reporting in Tijuana, a fifth journalist was killed over the weekend, but his death is not being treated as a crime against journalists because it appears he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.