Washington Post reporter Dana Priest has an excellent piece on the threats Mexican journalists face everyday: Censor or die: The death of Mexican news in the age of drug cartels
For anyone who has paid attention to what is going on in Mexico, this is not news, but confirmation that the war against the cartels is not going so well in Mexico.
The Mexican media was just getting out from under the thumb of the oddly named Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) that ran Mexico for most of its 100+ years. A breakdown in the control PRI had meant journalists could start actually being journalists instead of stenographers for the government.
Then the cartels started gaining strength — with the help of corrupt national and local officials.
Suddenly the threats to free and independent journalism was no longer the loss of a job, but death.
As Priest notes:
Submitting to cartel demands is the only way to survive, said Hildebrando “Brando” Deandar Ayala, 39, editor in chief of El Mañana, one of the oldest and largest newspapers in the region with a print circulation of 30,000. “You do it or you die, and nobody wants to die,” he said. “Auto censura — self-censorship — that’s our shield.”
Just some items from the past 10 years:
- Social media picking up slack in Mexico war zones
- NYT: The Most Dangerous Beat: Juárez, Mexico
- ‘Caught in the middle’: Journalists seeking asylum often stuck in limbo
In Mexico, as in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, the issue is not government censorship but death threats from criminal cartels. The inability of the governments to address the issue speaks volumes about the corruption and weak legal systems in these countries.
To be clear though, it does not mean the governments have a policy of media repression. Too many observers of Latin America see any attacks on journalists — or civic society activists — as being ordered by the local or national government. Unfortunately the threats are essentially from the “private sector” — the cartels. The law enforcement systems in these countries are so weak that the threats against journalists — and civic society activists — either are not investigated or such a weak case is built against the murderers that they go free.
This impunity cartels enjoy can only be stopped if the governments are provided enough support and help to fight back. That is why cutting support to programs that seek to build stronger legal systems is not the way to go. (But tell that to a handful of Congress critters and US-based activists.)