San Antonio journalists association honors fallen Mexican journalists

The San Antonio Association of Hispanic Journalists (SAAHJ) posthumously recognized almost 70 Mexican journalists killed by drug violence south of the U.S.-Mexican border with the Henry Guerra Lifetime Achievement Award. "This is possibly the first time a U.S. journalism organization honors the courageous reporters, editors, photographers and others who lost their lives covering Mexico’s war," according to SAAHJ's website.

Javier Garza, editorial director for El Siglo de Torreón, and Sandra Rodríguez, journalist for El Diario de Juárez, received the award on behalf of the victims in San Antonio, Texas, on Friday, July 29, reported E Siglo de Torreón.

Fifteen journalists were killed in Mexico since the beginning of 2010, raising the total to 30 since President Felipe Calderón took office at the end of 2006, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). The National Human Rights Commission (CNDH in Spanish) in Mexico, however, documents 68 killings in the same time frame.

"Our guild is worried about the impact the war has had not only on certain journalists and their families but what the war is doing to the freedom of expression in Mexico," said SAAHJ President and journalist for the newspaper San Antonio Express-News Elaine Ayala.

Killings are up because of impunity, Garza opined. "Rarely do you hear that they caught the killer of a journalist," he said. In his experience, the authorities do not investigate attacks on the press. As a result, criminals believe they can continue to kill with impunity because there is no example of punishment, Garza said.

Garza remembered a flurry of gunshots his newspaper's office suffered in 2009 that the authorities never investigated.

"This award is a gesture of solidarity from our colleagues who understand our problems and threats against the freedom of expression," Garza said in a phone interview with the Knight Center.

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