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Mexican Newspaper Shuts Down In 'Act Of Protest' After Journalist's Murder

Miroslava Breach was sitting in the car with one of her three children outside her home in Mexico when gunmen approached and shot her eight times. Her child was unharmed; the 54-year-old journalist was killed.

A note left beside her body explained the crime for which she'd been murdered: "For being a loud-mouth."

Breach died in the city of Chihuahua on March 23, the third journalist slain in Mexico last month alone. Her murder was also the last straw for the regional newspaper Norte, a publication covering the Mexican border city Juarez.

In bold letters on its front page Sunday, the paper announced its closure: "ADIOS!" Citing Breach's killing specifically in his opening lines, Norte owner Oscar Cantú Murguía laid out why the situation confronting his journalists is now simply too dangerous for his publication to continue.

"On this day, esteemed reader, I address you to report that I have made the decision to close this newspaper due to the fact that, among other things, there are neither the guarantees nor the security to exercise critical, counterbalanced journalism," Cantú wrote to readers, according to a translation by The Associated Press, in a letter that also has been posted online.

Cantú added:

"In these 27 years ... we fought against the tide, receiving attacks and punishments from individuals and governments for having exposed their bad practices and corrupt acts that only played to the detriment of our city and the people who live in it." ...

"Everything in life has a beginning and an end, a price to pay. And if this is life, I am not prepared for any more of my collaborators to pay it, nor with my own person."

Sunday marked Norte's final print edition. Cantú told The Washington Post he also plans to shutter the paper's digital presence, explaining that while about 150 people would be laid off because of the closure, "I would rather they lose their jobs than lose their lives."

At least 38 journalists have been killed in Mexico since 1992 — 35 of whom were murdered — for reasons related to their work, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The organization reports that in at least 29 of those murders, some or all of the killers walked free.

As the BBC notes Breach had reported on organized crime, drug-trafficking and corruption for both Norte and the national newspaper La Jornada. Less than one week after her killing — and days before Norte's closure announcement — gunmen "shot and gravely wounded" veteran journalist Armando Arrieta Granados in the state of Veracruz, the CPJ says.

"Mexico is clearly going through a deep, full-blown freedom of expression crisis," Carlos Lauria, senior program coordinator for the Americas at CPJ, told the AP. "It's affecting Mexicans, not only journalists, because the fact that a newspaper closes is depriving people of information that they need in order to take informed decisions."

Cantú — whose farewell letter also blamed authorities for "the arrogant refusal to pay debts contracted for the provision of services" — still says the closure is less a function of financial troubles than a gesture of dissent toward a government that refuses to protect its journalists.

"It is an act of protest," Cantú told the Post. "It is my way of protesting with silence."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.