WASHINGTON – The U.S. journalism and free speech museum called the Newseum added 77 names to its Journalists Memorial on Monday to honor reporters, photographers and broadcasters who died while covering the news, including several killed in Mexican drug violence.
Mexico ranked second only to Iraq among the deadliest places for journalists last year, said Alberto Ibarguen, the Newseum's chairman, and president and Chief executive of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The names of five journalists killed in Mexico were added to the memorial wall, along with 13 who were killed in Iraq in 2008.
"These are not long ago and far away events," said Ibarguen, a former publisher of The Miami Herald. "The story they're covering in Mexico is a story of drugs and corruption and guns."
Among the fallen journalists in Mexico was Armando Rodriguez, a crime reporter for El Diario in Ciudad Juarez who had covered the violent city across the border from El Paso, Texas, for 10 years.
He had received death threats and was sent to work for a time in El Paso for his protection but returned to Juarez shortly after. On Nov. 13, Rodriguez was shot to death in his driveway as he sat in his car with his 8-year-old daughter, waiting for her younger sister to drive the girls to school.
"These murders strike at the heart of democracy by silencing speech and by depriving a community of the information it needs to conduct its affairs," Ibarguen said.
Last year was the deadliest for journalists in Mexico in at least five years, according to Newseum records. Iraq has been the most dangerous country for journalists since the war began in 2003.
Frank Smyth of the Committee to Protect Journalists said journalists are at greater risk now in places like Mexico, but he said the risk for local correspondents, such as Rodriguez, has always been high.
The soaring glass memorial was rededicated Monday at the museum on Pennsylvania Avenue near the Capitol. Each new name added to the wall was read aloud, followed by a single chime.
The memorial includes 1,913 names dating back to 1837. It began in 1996 with less than 1,000 names.
The new names include 62 journalists killed in 2008. One was Magomed Yevloyev, the owner of an independent Russian news site that the government had been trying to shut down. Yevloyev, 37, was shot while in police custody. Police said he had tried to seize an officer's weapon.
The names of 15 journalists killed in previous years also were added to the wall. Among those was Sarah Park, a reporter for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin who was killed in 1957 in a small plane crash while covering a tsunami.
The youngest journalist's name added to the wall was Ryan Rendleman, 22, who was on assignment for the Daily Egyptian student newspaper at Southern Illinois University in April 2008 when a tractor-tractor slammed into his stopped car at a construction zone.
More than 500,000 visitors have passed by the Journalists Memorial since the Newseum reopened in its new home in April 2008, said Charles Overby, the museum's chief executive.