EL PASO – “July, 2007 was the last time I felt safe in Mexico,” said Alfredo Corchado, the Dallas Morning News Mexico Bureau Chief, when he took the podium as he returned to his alma mater to deliver The University of Texas at El Paso’s Centennial Lecture Thursday. Corchado presented his book Midnight in Mexico – A Reporter’s Journey through a Country’s Descent into Darkness, which will be released at the end of May. He also took the opportunity to do his first ever reading of the book to a full auditorium with his parents sitting in the front row. A 2009 Nieman Fellow at Harvard and a 2010 Rockefeller Fellow and Woodrow Wilson Scholar, Corchado, native of Durango, Mexico, he won the Maria Moors Cabot award from Columbia Journalism School in 2007 for extraordinary bravery and enterprise. In 2010 he was awarded Colby College’s Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award for courageous journalism.
EL PASO – A group of armed men in a grey van approached the premises of El Diario de Ciudad Juárez, the leading newspaper in the city now ranked as the 19th most dangerous in the world, and fired seven bullets through the building’s plate-glass door before dawn on March 6. “There was never a previous threat or any kind of vindictive message. We did not expect it… so far the authorities have not been able to tell us who it was or what was the motive,” said Pedro Torres, Associate Editor of El Diario de Juárez. The early morning attack was not the newspaper’s first encounter with violence. Armando Rodríguez, the lead crime reporter for El Diario, was shot to death in November 2008.
WASHINGTON – Sometimes journalists need to act a little outside their job description to protect themselves. “Honestly, it feels a bit like pretending to be a spy,” said Danny O’Brien, the San Francisco-based Internet advocacy coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists. To help journalists assess and prevent threats to themselves and sources, CPJ released its Journalist Security Guide on April 26. A panel discussed the guide Wednesday at an event hosted by CPJ and Internews, both non-profits that promote free press. The deaths of New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid and The Sunday Times reporter Marie Colvin earlier this year in Syria are examples of the risks journalists take.
EL PASO – Sitting on the cold hard cement the man was able to remove part of his blindfold and focusing his sight, the dim light revealed a small dirty room covered in blood. Alejandro Hernandez Pacheco, 42, had been kidnapped in Torreon, Mexico, and one of the few who survived to tell the story. He worked as a cameraman for the television station, Televisa, in Torreon. On July 26, 2010 during a regular day of work, Pacheco was sent to cover a news story about killings connected to a prison in his city. Hernandez and two fellow reporters were sent to the prison in Gomez Palacio, Durango, were several murders of guards had taken place that same month.
EL PASO – TV reporters covering the U.S.-Mexico border require passion, strong investigative skills and survival skills on a beat that has claimed thousands of lives in a ruthless drug war. Angela Kocherga and her cameraman Hugo Perez, who have covered the violent border for the Belo Border Bureau for the past six years, won the 9th Annual Lone Star Emmy Awards Crime-News Single Story category for their story on Juárez paramedics. Working for the Belo Corporation, one of the largest television companies in the nation, which operates 20 television stations, the Kocherga-Perez team covers stories on drug war violence, immigration and cross border health issues and how all this affects people on both sides of the border. Their featured stories are aired in various stations throughout Texas. The award-winning story revealed the everyday risks the paramedics of Ciudad Juárez face while trying to save lives.
WASHINGTON – I strongly believe in the common phrase “everything happens for a reason,” and entering the fall internship at the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire fits the expression perfectly. Not only did I arrive here during Hispanic Heritage Month, making the transition from El Paso to Washington a little easier, but I also got the opportunity to witness two brave female reporters from El Diario de Juarez receive the Knight International Journalism Award from the International Center for Journalists. Rocío Idalia Gallegos Rodríguez and Sandra Rodríguez Nieto earned master’s degrees in journalism at the University of Texas at El Paso, my hometown university where I am majoring in multimedia journalism. We also happen to share a mentor, Zita Arocha, senior lecturer and director of the university’s online magazine, Borderzine.com. Gallegos and Nieto’s passion for journalism has led them to risk their lives every day, living and reporting in Juarez, a city ruled by corruption and impunity.
SAN DIEGO — Mexico’s National Commission on Human Rights received 608 complaints of injuries against journalists, 66 murders of reporters, and 12 disappearances of journalists, between 2000 and 2011. “Drug dealers aren’t concerned about killing one reporter or 20 or 30 because nothing is going to happen to them,” said Jorge Luis Aguirre, editor of LaPolaka.com, a news web site that covers drug trafficking and related topics. Aguirre says the attacks and threats against journalists pose a threat to a free press in México and to the democratic institutions in that country. Aguirre was recently granted political asylum in the U.S. based on claims he received death threats from the state government of Chihuahua. The journalist continues working as the editor of LaPolaka.com from his residence in El Paso, Texas.
EL PASO — The June 20 shooting deaths of a journalist, his wife, and their 21-year-old son in their home in Veracruz, México, underscore the assessment by a Washington human rights organization that México no longer has a free press. Freedom House dropped México’s ranking to a “partly free” country citing the innumerable threats to the country’s media independence in the current climate of drug-war violence. México was listed as “partly free” in large part because of the self-censorship, violent and deadly attacks on journalists, and a feeling of fear that has taken over the nation. The murders of Miguel Ángel López Velasco, 55, a columnist for the daily newspaper Notiver and his son Misael López, a photographer for Notiver are more atrocities in an unrelenting series of criminal actions against Mexican journalists. Mexico’s National Commission on Human Rights estimates that in the past 10 years 83 Mexican journalists have been killed or have disappeared.
Dos vehículos utilitarios interceptaron el automóvil de Valentín Valdés Espinosa en el centro de Saltillo, México. Unos matones armados obligaron al reportero de asignaciones generales de 29 años de edad a entrar en uno de los autos. Sucedió poco antes de la medianoche del 7 de enero de 2010. En los días precedentes, Valdés Espinosa había informado agresivamente sobre el arresto de varios narcotraficantes en esa ciudad norteña de México para su periódico, El Zócalo de Saltillo, y había cometido el pecado cardinal de identificarlos por nombre. En otro artículo, Valdés Espinosa había identificado a un agente policial que fue arrestado por estar en la nómina de los narcotraficantes.
Two SUVs intercepted Valentín Valdés Espinosa’s car in downtown Saltillo, Mexico. Gun-wielding thugs forced the 29-year-old general assignment reporter into a vehicle. It was shortly before midnight on Jan. 7, 2010. In the preceding days, Valdés Espinosa had aggressively reported the arrest of several drug traffickers in the northern Mexico city — and had committed the cardinal sin of identifying them by name — for his newspaper, the Zócalo de Saltillo.