Thousands of guns lie on the ground before their destruction in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua State, Mexico on February 16, 2012. At least 6000 rifles and pistols seized to drugs cartels were destroyed by members of the Mexican Army.
By Erika Angulo and Wilma Hernandez, NBC News
"If they're going to kill you, they're going to kill you," said Luz del Carmen Sosa, a reporter in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and mother of two, who spends most of her day running from one murder scene to another. "Even if you arrive surrounded by police, security escorts, whoever wants to hurt you will hurt you."
Just 20 miles from Ciudad Juarez, photojournalist Alejandro Hernández Pacheco did get hurt. On July 26, 2010, Hernandez was part of a TV news crew videotaping at a prison in the city of Gomez Palacio when he was kidnapped at gunpoint, along with two colleagues.
"They took us to a place that was covered with dried blood, with teeth and hair stuck to the walls," said Hernandez. He stopped himself from describing the room any further, saying it brings back terrifying memories.
"They hit us until they tired," he said, adding that the gunmen also threatened to burn him alive. "They hit me in the head with a piece of wood, on my back, my knees, my ankles." The men were released five days later. Authorities believe the kidnappers were members of the notorious Sinaloa cartel.
Mexico has become a killing field for reporters, according to a study released this week by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. The organization’s "Attacks on the Press in 2011" study shows 48 Mexican journalists have disappeared or have been killed in the last five years across the country.
CPJ's survey found the increase in crimes against media workers began with the start of Mexican President Felipe Calderon's escalated war against narcotics traffickers, a crusade which has led rival cartels to fight for control of the profitable drug routes into the United States.
Stringer/Mexico / Reuters
Galia Rodriguez, 8, daughter of reporter Armando Rodriguez who was killed in Ciudad Juarez, takes part in an anniversary in the journalists's park in the border city of Ciudad Juarez on Nov. 13, 2010. Suspected drug gangs shot dead Rodriguez, a Mexican crime reporter who worked for El Diario de Ciudad Juarez on Nov. 13, 2008 in Ciudad Juarez.
‘Nothing has changed’
Pressure from international press organizations like CPJ prompted the Calderon administration to launch an initiative to protect the country's journalists.
London-based writers group PEN has called for "immediate and definitive action" to end the killings of journalists in Mexico.
But the killings and kidnappings continue.
"Nothing has changed," Hernandez said. "No one is going to protect them [journalists], they have no one to turn to for protection, but themselves."
In Ciudad Juarez, a city that sees an average of eight murders a day, Sosa says journalists put competition for exclusive stories aside and call each other when news breaks, so they can travel to cover developments as a group. A 23-year veteran crime reporter of the award-winning El Diario, Sosa and other experienced journalists have also gotten used to giving up their byline for a simple "staff" byline when they write a story that may infuriate a cartel leader or government official.