Silence or death for Mexico’s media

Yahoo’s front page story this morning is about Mexico’s largest newspaper, El Diario. The paper, which is based in Ciudad Juarez, is dropping its coverage of Mexico’s drug wars after burying its second journalist killed by gangs.

The Committee to Protect Journalists is lobbying the government on behalf of Mexico's media.

On Sunday, according to this article by the Associated Press, the paper ran a page one editorial asking the drug cartels “to say what they want from the newspaper, so it can continue its work without further death, injury or intimidation of its staff.”

And so the cartels have bought themselves a media blackout with the blood of two reporters. They will now be able to conduct their business without being harassed and exposed by the press. And as an added bonus for those criminals, El Diario has, with a front page editorial, recognized the cartels as “the city’s de facto authorities,” and has opened negotiations with them.  That’s a problem.

But on the other hand, the Mexican government has completely failed to shield those journalists from harm. The Committee to Protect Journalists has prepared a special report on the subject, to be presented to President Felipe Calderon Wednesday.

The full report is here, but here are some of the highlights:

– More than 30 journalists are dead or have gone missing since the end of 2006.

– Mexico ranks ninth on the committee’s list of nations that fail to protect journalists. Iraq is number one.

– When Bladimir Antuna García, Durango’s top crime reporter, was tortured and killed last November after receiving and reporting death threats, the incident was not even investigated by the state. Since then, that region’s journalists have stopped reporting on crime and corruption.

– The Committee to Protect Journalists is asking the federal government to step in.

It’s scary stuff.

As Americans, we hear about our own journalists killed as they cover conflicts in other countries. But the Mexican journalists are threatened at home. Atuna was shot at as he left his home last April. When he got to work, someone called his cell phone, told him, “We’ve found your home. It’s over for you now.” That sort of threat might make me quit my job. That sort of threat might make any newspaper back down on a story. Thank god no paper I’ve ever worked for has faced that sort of a threat.

Given the choice between silence and death, we might all well choose silence, but allowing criminals to control the media is not a viable option. Someone must step in and protect Mexico’s journalists so that they can do their jobs. Mexico is our neighbor. Maybe there is something we can do to help.

One thought on “Silence or death for Mexico’s media

  1. Fun fact: When I spend time in New Mexico, I’m about fifty miles from Juarez. I’ve been on the highway that separates it from El Paso, Texas, and you can clearly see exactly where one country ends and the next begins, the way things are laid out and maintained. (In Juarez’s case, barely at all, but at least now the homes you can see seem to have electricity. They didn’t when I was a kid.) It’s a pretty dicey place.

    That’s a terrible decision to have to make, to choose between your duty to tell the truth, and your own life. I feel like fiction is a safer medium. That way you tell lies to tell the truth. I’ve never heard of a novelist shot dead for this kind of thing.

    Maybe it’s just a sign I’m too much of a coward to ever be a journalist.

    Bless those people, that’s all I’ve got to say. And unfortunately, it’s not even helpful.

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