Arturo Perez accepting the 2010 Martin Adler Prize at last week's Rory Peck Awards. Photo: Rory Peck Trust
"To live in Ciudad Juárez means to live imprisoned," says Mexican journalist Arturo Pérez, winner of this year's Martin Adler Prize from the Rory Peck Trust.
Like all the city's journalists, Pérez only covers a violent event when his colleagues agree to visit the crime scene as a group. He also avoids working at night time and varies the route he takes to his house.
For her own safety, Pérez's wife currently lives in Guadalajara, a western Mexican city 1,547 kilometers away from Ciudad Juárez. They meet only once a month.
"Measures like these eventually get you jailed. You lose your freedom, because someone can attempt on your life at anytime, whether you’re a journalist or not."
Pérez owns a small news agency in Ciudad Juárez, and provides news stories and features to international news agencies and networks like Reuters, CBS, NBC, Univision and Telemundo.
Earlier this month he was awarded the Martin Adler Prize, given in memory of an award-winning freelance photojournalist who was killed in Somalia in 2006.
Pérez has reported on some of Mexico's most violent events this year, including the aftermath of murders of United States’ consulate workers, the mass killing of 15 youngsters during a high-school party, and the killing of 19 young addicts at a drug rehab centre.
He also covered a car bomb attack on July, and the murder of a Mexican teenager by the US Border Patrol in the border line between Ciudad Juárez and El Paso, Texas.
According to Reforma Newspaper’s 'Executometre', almost 25,000 people have been executed in Mexico between 2007 and 2010. Of those deaths, 1,800 have occurred in Ciudad Juárez, a city of abound 1,500,000.
"Criminals are coming up to see who commits the most heinous killings," Pérez said.
Pérez said that when he began to see beheaded people, he thought that he could not possibly see anything worse. But he has had to endure the sight of body parts removed from murdered people and thrown into the street and people hanged from bridges.
He has seen families that have lost three sons, he says.
It has become common to see parents burying their children. Every day he wakes up and wonders how many families will lose one of their beloved to a gunman.
"The whole city is in mourning, I don’t think there is anyone in Ciudad Juárez who hasn't lived violence closely," he said.
After 15 young people where assassinated at a party on January 2010, President Felipe Calderón and Cabinet members visited Ciudad Juárez to establish a strategy to diminish violence. The Army left the city and Federal Police took charge.
But Pérez has not seen a positive impact on violence or insecurity, he says.
"People complain a lot about Federal Police's abuses, we sometimes fear more the policemen than the criminals, and that's terrible, you can’t trust the authorities who are supposed to provide security,” he said.
During the Rory Peck Awards ceremony at the British Film Institute in London, Pérez asked the audience to give a round of applause to honour journalists killed in Mexico.
Receiving the Martin Adler Prize brought both joy and sadness, Pérez says, because he is being celebrated partly due to the violence his country is facing.
According to the National Human Rights Commission, 65 journalists have been killed in the country since year 2000 and most of those crimes have gone unresolved.
Pérez's life is at risk because of his work, but he will remain in Ciudad Juárez, he says.
"I will stay in Juárez until God says otherwise or until the situation changes."
Silvia Garduño is a Mexican journalist currently studying for an MA in Multimedia Journalism at Sussex University. She has previously worked for Mexico's Reforma newspaper for four years.
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