The Diario de Juarez editorial, in translation
The headline, in gripping language, asks simply: "What do you want from us?"
A front-page editorial published by El Diario de Juarez, the main newspaper in violence-plagued Ciudad Juarez, has rippled across the country and among international journalist groups, as previously reported by La Plaza here.
The editorial, prompted by the killing of El Diario photographer Luis Carlos Santiago, has touched a nerve. El Diario publicly offers to the Juarez drug gangs what news organizations across Mexico practice widely for their survival: self-censorship.
President Felipe Calderon's government indirectly criticized the Diario editorial the day after it was published, but the buzz has not let up. The newspaper's move reflects the crippling culture of fear that now defines many parts of the country. The drug war in Mexico has so far left more than 28,000 dead; among them are at least 30 reporters who have been killed or have disappeared, as found by the Committee to Project Journalists in an extensive report released this month.
La Plaza has decided to offer a translation of the editorial's top portion. It is a sharply written and even stirring document demonstrating the high level of frustration and fear among journalists in Mexico as the country continues to suffer from drug-related violence.
This translation is by La Plaza blogger Daniel Hernandez. Here's the original. The translation follows:
What do you want from us?
Gentlemen of the different organizations that are fighting for the Ciudad Juarez plaza, the loss of two reporters of this news organization represents an irreparable breakdown for all of us who work here, and in particular, for our families.
We'd like you to know that we're communicators, not psychics. As such, as information workers, we ask that you explain what it is you want from us, what you'd intend for us to publish or to not publish, so that we know what is expected of us.
You are at this time the de facto authorities in this city because the legal authorities have not been able to stop our colleagues from falling, despite the fact that we've repeatedly demanded it from them. Because of this, before this undeniable reality, we direct ourselves to you with these questions, because the last thing we want is that another one of our colleagues falls victim to your bullets.
Even as the entire journalistic practice of this border has suffered the consequences of this war in which you and the federal government find yourselves, El Diario has been, without a doubt, the outlet that has been injured most up to this moment because none other has suffered the loss of two of its collaborators, as we have.
We don't want any more dead. We don't want any more injured or any more threats. It is impossible to exercise our function in these conditions. Indicate to us, therefore, what you expect of us as a news outlet.
This is not a surrender. It also does not signify we're giving up on the work we've been producing. This is about a truce with those who have imposed the force of their law upon this city, so long as the lives are respected of those who dedicate themselves to the task of informing.
Before the absence of power that we residents of Chihuahua state inhabit generally, in an environment in which guarantees do not sufficiently exist for citizens to carry out their lives and activities safely, journalism has become one of the riskiest professions and El Diario can attest to it.
For those of us who lead this editorial company, if our objective and mission of informing the community well remain the same as it has for 34 years, in these moments we see no logic in risking the safety of so many colleagues so that their lives are used as vehicles for messages, cited or not, between the various organizations, or even the official authorities.
Even war has rules. In any outbreak of violence protocols or guarantees exist for the groups in conflict, in order to safeguard the integrity of the journalists who cover it. This is why we reiterate, gentlemen of the various narco-trafficking organizations, that you explain what it is you want from us so we may no longer pay tribute with the lives of our colleagues.
-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City
Photo: The funeral for photographer Luis Carlos Santiago, 21, in Ciudad Juarez. Credit: Associated Press