CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico – A crime reporter in the violent Mexican border city of Juarez was killed Thursday, adding to dozens of journalist deaths in a country where newspapers are so fearful, many refuse to cover drug violence.
Armando Rodriguez had covered crime for 10 years in Juarez, working for El Diario newspaper. He was shot several times as he sat warming up his car outside his home.
A special federal prosecutor in charge of journalist killings will investigate. Officials did not immediately have any suspects or motive.
Mexico has become one of the world's most dangerous countries for journalists, in part because drug gangs target reporters whose stories detail their activities. Many reporters refuse to put their bylines on stories, and some newspapers have stopped covering the drug gangs altogether.
With Rodriguez's death, 24 journalists have been killed in Mexico since 2000 — at least seven of them in direct reprisal for their reports on crime — and seven others have disappeared since 2005, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Rodriguez's death shows the need for Mexico to do more to protect the media, said the committee's Carlos Lauria. "Mexico needs to break the cycle of impunity in crimes against journalists," he said.
Drug-related killings are soaring as cartels battle each other for lucrative routes used to deliver cocaine, marijuana and other illegal drugs to consumers in the United States. President Felipe Calderon is cracking down and the cartels have responded with a vengeance — more than 4,000 people have been killed so far this year — more than 1,000 in Juarez alone.
Corruption is widespread, reaching as high as the federal Attorney General's office, and the drug gangs often control more than the drug trade, extorting money from business leaders and even teachers.
On Wednesday, an anonymous banner appeared at the door of a public Juarez kindergarten, threatening to attack the school's children if the teachers don't hand over their Christmas bonuses.
Classes were immediately suspended as police decided what security measures to take.