Category Archives: Mexico

Freedom House Looks at Threats in Mexico

Freedom House, one of the top human rights organizations in the world, has a program helping journalists in Mexico. Below is an introduction and link to a story about that program.

Mexico’s Embattled Journalists: An Interview with Mariclaire Acosta

mctwitterOne of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists is Mexico, where 11 reporters have been murdered since 2014. Mariclaire Acosta directs Freedom House’s program in Mexico City to improve journalists’ professionalism and safety. Acosta, Mexico’s former Deputy Secretary for Human Rights and Democracy, talks here about the interconnected crises of security, press freedom, and accountability.

Full report, click here.

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Filed under Harassment, Killings, Mexico

Mexican Journalist Kidnapped; War Against Journalists Continues

The latest victim in attacks against journalists in Mexico is Anabel Flores Salazar, a reporter in Veracruz.

Mexican authorities say they are searching for her after reports she was dragged from her home by armed men and hasn’t been seen since.

Salazar was taken Monday morning from her home near the city of Orizaba, where she worked for several newspapers.

Unfortunately, kidnapping and killing journalists is not uncommon in Mexico. Since 2010 15 journalists have been killed in Veracruz alone.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 24 journalists have been killed in Mexico because of their jobs since 2010. A vast majority — 77 percent — of the reporters killed covered the crime beat, just like Salazar.

Threats against journalists come not only from the gangs but also corrupt public officials. The BBC reports there are strained relations between the Veracruz governor and the media. The governor has gone as far as warning journalists to “behave” or bad things might happen to them.

Understandably journalists in the area saw the comment as a veiled threat.

Veracruz prosecutors say they will investigate everything about Salazar to see why she was kidnapped.

The office said a few years ago she was seen with a leader of the local branch of the Zetas drug cartel.

And here in lies the problem.

For reporters to do their job, they have to develop sources across the board. If a cartel leader doesn’t like a story, threats are made and carried out against journalists. Likewise, if a local political figure is identified as being in the hip pocket of a cartel, the journalist receives threats from or is intimidated by the local government.

And then, there are a few bad apples in the journalism profession. Some have used their position as reporter or commentator to extort money from people in exchange for their silence on the air or in print. And because of the few unethical journalists, it becomes easier for governments and gangs to frame honest journalists, because the public is already to accept corruption within the media exists, just as it exists in the rest of society.

And to be clear, the situation described above is not unique to Mexico. Journalists throughout the Western Hemisphere face similar threats from gangs and rogue government officials.

This item was originally posted at Journalism and the World, the site of the International Journalism Community of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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Filed under Corruption, International News Coverage, Killings, Mexico

Mexican media still threatened by gangs

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:

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.)

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Filed under Censorship, International News Coverage, Killings, Mexico

New map on impunity for Mexico and Brazil

Once again proof that all it takes is some encouragement and a few — VERY FEW — bucks to put together a major effort to expose violations of human rights, including freedom of speech and press.

Advocacy groups in Mexico and Brazil map attacks on journalists to counteract threats

The crowd-sourced maps will help journalists know more about the risks they might face as the enter an area before they start “doing journalism.”

The Mexican map — Perriodistas en Riesgo — was created in 2012 and focuses on where journalists are under threat.

According to the Knight Center:

Attacks are divided into four categories: physical, psychological, digital and legal. Each category can then be modified by multiple subcategories. For example, a physical attack could be a kidnapping, beating, disappearance, murder, etc, and one attack, such as a reporter being mugged and having his cellphone and laptop stolen, could be categorized as a physical and a digital attack.

The Brazilian map — Violacoes a Liberdade de Expressao — casts a much wider net. It only started in November 2014 but does look at all forms of violations of freedom of expressions, including attacks on journalists and legal proceedings designed to silence human rights advocates.

The items on the Brazilian site are confirmed by Article 19 before being posted to the site.

 

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Filed under Harassment, Killings, Mexico, South America

March for justice in Mexico

Journalists is the Mexican state of Veracruz marched over the weekend to demand protection for journalists and for the government find and prosecute those responsible for killing investigative journalist Regina Martinez.

Government officials say they have the killer of Martinez, who was found beaten and suffocated in her house. But her co-workers don’t believe them.

The man convicted of the murder is Jorge Antonio Hernandez Silva. According to the government versions, Martinez was killed because she interrupted a robbery by  Hernandez Silva.

Unfortunately for the government, Hernandez Silva says he was forced to confess after being tortured for several days. The editors at Martinez’s publication, Proceso, don’t accept the government story, pointing out that none of the fingerprints in the Martinez apartment match Hernandez Silva.

The local authorities did not do themselves any favors when, according to Proceso, some current and former state officials issued orders to capture a reporter who questioned the verdict and “to do him harm if he resists.”

After the national government stepped in and expressed its skepticism of the local version of events, Veracruz Gov. Javier Duarte  met with editors of Proceso and promised a full investigation.

See original story: Mexican journalists march against attacks on press

Mexico has become one of the most dangerous countries for journalists. The threat comes from drug cartels and corrupted government officials. Since 1992, 28 journalists and media workers have been killed in Mexico. Of those 28 cases, 22 have not been solved.

The national government has stepped up its efforts to protect journalists and to deal with the lack of action by local governments.

Late last week the national legislature passed a bill giving the federal government jurisdiction over crimes against journalists. It only awaits the president’s signature.

Read more about the bill and the problem of impunity in Mexico: In Mexico, a movement and a bill against impunity

 

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Filed under Corruption, Harassment, Killings, Mexico

Social media picking up slack in Mexico war zones

A study conducted by Microsoft investigates the emergence of “war correspondents” in Mexico. The study looked at how citizens are using Twitter to disseminate information about gang attacks and potentially dangerous situations to large numbers of people.

InSight Crime reported on the Microsoft study:

The study, titled “The New War Correspondents: The Rise of Civic Media Curation in Urban Warfare” (pdf), analyzed Tweets relating to the Mexican cities of Reynosa, Monterrey, Saltillo, and Veracruz over a 16-month period. The study identified a group of people, dubbed “curators,” who published a high volume of Tweets related to drug violence, sharing information and warning other users. The report argues that in some ways, these individuals are taking on the role of a new generation of “war correspondents.”

For the authors of the report, the importance of these citizen curators points to a deficiency in more traditional sources of information, namely the government and established media outlets. Local governments and newspapers often face intense intimidation from organized criminal groups, with many forced to cooperate with them, or to refrain from printing stories on criminal violence.

The independent media have been attacked by the narcos for reporting on any deaths related to the gang warfare taking place in Mexico’s northern regions. Likewise, government officials have also been threatened (some bribed) to prevent them from taking any action.

The intimidation of media and government sources leaves a vacuum of information. And that is where the citizen journalists step in. But there are problems with this as well.

No matter where citizen journalists operate — Mexico, Syria, New Orleans, etc — the bottom line is the credibility of the reporter. With no way to check the veracity of the information, receivers of the news have to make their own judgments about credibility.

As InSight Crime points out:

There are risks in leaving the gathering and dissemination of crime news in the hands of these non-professional curators. One question is how to assess the reliability of the information. Using Twitter allows these contributors to avoid the dangers faced by traditional media outlets, as they can remain anonymous, but this very anonymity makes it difficult to know if their information can be trusted.

And, as the Microsoft authors point out, some of the curators of information gain credibility and trust.

Social media curators seek to spread information to new audiences by selectively identifying and sharing content coming from the broader stream. These curators develop reputations with their audiences based on the perceived value of the information that they spread. Some curators simply pass on information posted by others, while other curators add commentary or insert their own interpretations or updates.

For journalists, tapping into this Twitter exchange could help develop stories and gain a better understanding of what is happening in the drug wars in Mexico. (And maybe even learn how there are cross border issues involved.)

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Filed under Connections, Mexico

Pressure grows on Mexican government to protect journalists

The latest attack of a Mexican newspaper (Arson attack on Mexican newspaper) shows that being a journalist in Mexico is still one of the most deadly jobs one could have.

Press freedom groups are stepping up the pressure on incoming president Enrique Peña Nieto to ensure that journalists are protected from government-sponsored harassment. They also called on the president-elect to make sure that those who attack journalists or news organizations are prosecuted.

One Month After Mexico’s Presidential Elections, Attacks on Journalists and Media Continue

Larry Kilman, deputy CEO of WAN-IFRA, commented: “Journalists in Mexico are being targeted, intimidated, attacked and murdered simply for doing their jobs, and the attackers do this without fear of prosecution. The result of these actions is that citizens are no longer properly informed, and the press can no longer adequately play its role as watchdog over public institutions.”

 

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