Journalists Are Major Targets in Mexico’s Drug War; Bloggers Use Twitter To Report
September 27, 2010 By Andrew OReilly
Two Sundays ago, in an unprecedented move, Ciudad Juárez’s El Diario newspaper printed an editorial that asked Mexico’s drug cartels the question of what and what not to publish. The editorial was published only a day after the funeral of one its photographers, who was murdered during his lunch break.
The murders of dozens of Mexican journalists in recent years has sparked an international outcry from many human rights groups and news agencies, as well as raised serious concerns over the issue of self-censorship when covering drug-related violence.
“El Diario has shown great courage in the past. We hope it will not silence itself now. Whatever happens, the editorial provides a terrifying description of the state of anarchy in Juárez — and a reminder of the federal government’s failure to protect the press,” The New York Times wrote in an opinion piece entitled “What Do You Want From Us?”
Much of the blame for the failure to protect journalists, and the general public, has been directed toward the Mexican government. Since Mexican President Felipe Calderón declared his war against drug traffickers in 2006, over 28,000 people have been killed including last week’s murder of the mayor of the northern town of Doctor Gonzalez.
While the Calderón administration has at times been criticized for hinting that some journalists are on the cartels’ payrolls, the government unveiled a plan last Wednesday to protect journalists who cover the murders in Mexico.
“It pains me that Mexico is seen as one of the most dangerous places for the profession,” Calderón said, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The plan, which is modeled after a similar plan used in Colombia during the 1990s, makes killing a reporter a federal crime and creates an early warning system that helps relocate journalists who receive credible threats due to their work.
Despite the threats of violence toward journalists in Mexico, there is a large group of people using modern technology to report in the so-called media blackout surrounding the drug war.
People have been using blogs and Twitter accounts to cover what many of Mexico’s mainstream media outlets will not. One of the most successful of these blogs is El Blog del Narco, whose administrator claims he receives four million visitors a week.
The veil of the internet is a way for people to report on what is happening in certain parts of Mexico, but for those journalists who work for Mexico’s media outlets, threats are facts of life.
“Mexico’s criminal groups are fighting not only for the control of physical territory but also for control of information in many areas of the country,” says the Committee to Protect Journalists. “In this sense, the 30-plus journalists killed and disappeared since the beginning of the president’s term in 2006 are not collateral damage as some have suggested. Rather, the media is a deliberate target in a campaign by criminal groups to dictate what can and cannot be reported in the areas they control.”
Photo: World Economic Forum @ Flickr.