It is, yet, another sad chapter in the history of Tijuana and Mexico. With the assassination of the director and editor of the weekly newspaper Zeta , Francisco Ortiz Franco, one of the fundamental aspects of a democratic society and respect for a human life has been torn asunder. Mexico has once again shown that it is a long way from being a welcome partner within the family of nations.
The assassination of Francisco Ortiz Franco was not only the killing of a courageous journalist who dared to print the truth, it was a demonstration to the world that in Mexico there is no freedom of the press nor is human life worthy to be protected. This is not the first time that a journalist has been killed or shot at working to investigate, write, and report all the news fit to be printed in the city of Tijuana. The Zeta staff has had to suffer two assassinations and three attempts to take the publisher Jesús Blancornelas life! In Tijuana and other Mexican cities, to work in the media is to forfeit any chance that you will live a long life.
This assassination was not only aimed at Franco and Zeta but also was a blunt warning to all the citizens of Mexico that there is no such thing as “freedom of the press” in Mexico. There is a price to pay for challenging the heavily armed corrupt individuals within the government and the lords of the underworld. Law & Order is a concept foreign to Mexicans. It is a luxury they have yet to savor. In Mexico the common decent individuals, parents, and law-abiding citizens pass their lives under the end of a gun barrel
In a free and democratic society, journalist serve as the ‘fourth estate’ as a watchdog in a democracy, revealing abuses of state authority and defending the democratic rights of citizens. This was the role that Francisco Ortiz Franco and Zeta fulfills, writing about the drug lords, the cartels, the cozy relationships between government and these criminals, and the abuse of power. The unrelenting exposure of Jorge Hank Rhon, who is running for mayor of Tijuana by Zeta sealed the fate of Zeta and the cadre of brave reporters, who investigated and reported the facts of Hank Rhon’s background and corruption, who dared to expose the drug lords and their underling, the corruption in City Hall, and the nonexistence of law and order in Tijuana are exactly the type of stories that those with power and money don’t want to see exposed to the general public. In Mexico, the press is often bought off, threatened, destroyed, and the employees and owners are killed if they don’t follow the wishes of the owners of “gun” power.
Sometimes this attack on the free press spills over the border and is aimed at the US media as it did against La Prensa San Diego, its Publisher and reporters. Investigating and writing about government corruption in Mexico, La Prensa San Diego was threatened by government-armed goons to desist or problems would arise. One of our reporting staff was kidnapped and attacked by armed goons who sprayed her car with bullets. It ended when La Prensa San Diego staff was banned from crossing the border.