My final piece from a recent reporting trip to Juarez for AFP:
Multinational-run factories employing tens of thousands are doing brisk business in Ciudad Juarez, even as local businesses in the Mexican border town wither, devastated by the high murder rate and extortion by drug gangs.
Mexican poet turned peace activist Javier Sicilia meets President Felipe Calderon, who he has much criticized for the strong-arm military tactics against drug cartels that many blame for unleashing widespread violence.
This video was produced for AFP. You can also see it here on AFP’s YouTube channel.
Daniel Dominguez, one of the hard-worked crime reporters on El Diario, the biggest newspaper in Ciudad Juarez, was kind enough to let me spend the day with him last week. Here’s the report I produced for AFP, which you can also see here on YouTube. The same video is also embedded below, in case of geographical restrictions on the above.
Mexico’s march for peace, led by Catholic poet Javier Sicilia, crossed over from Ciudad Juarez – the violent epicenter of the country’s drug war – into El Paso, Texas Saturday.
They were joined by hundreds of Americans in their demands for a change in strategy from both the Mexican and US governments.
This video was created for AFP.
Just to give you a taste of last night:
Friday 10th 2011 – Mexican poet Javier Sicilia and his caravan of peace protestors received a warm welcome from thousands of people in Ciudad Juarez when they arrived Thursday evening. It was the final stop on a tour of some of the country’s states worst affected by drug-related violence. On arrival, Sicilia and his supporters held a rally remembering the dead.
Some 37,000 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico since 2006, when President Felipe Calderon declared ‘war’ against the country’s organized crime and drug networks.
June 6th 2011 – Since Javier Sicilia’s son was killed by gunmen in March, the left-leaning Catholic poet has become the voice for those left dead or grieving by drug-related violence in Mexico. Some 37,000 people have died since President Felipe Calderon launched his assault against the country’s drug cartels and organized crime networks in 2006. But how far can Sicilia go in improving Mexico’s future?
This video was produced by Deborah Bonello / MexicoReporter.com for AFP and you can see it here on their site. </a>
June 6th – Mexicans protesting a military crackdown on drug cartels launched a convoy protest Saturday that will travel through some of Mexico’s bloodiest towns on its way to the US border.
This dispatch was done for AFP. You can see it here on their YouTube channel.
Deborah Bonello reporting for MexicoReporter.com
My breath is tearing out of my lungs and my leg muscles are screaming for a reprieve. I just scaled a 60-degree hill coated in thorny brambles and poisonous plants whilst being pounded by rain. In the dark. I thought it couldn’t get any worse, but it did. Later that night, my fellow journalists and I were kidnapped by masked guerillas who jumped onto our bus.
Our only comfort? That none of this was real. But it could have been, which is the point of the survival course 18 journalists who live and work in Mexico attended last week in Toluca, just outside of Mexico City.
During the five day survival program, the journalists dodged tear gas and Army tanks and learned how to survive in the wilderness. The psychological stresses were addressed, too; they learned strategies for dealing with emotions.
In Mexico these days, that may be the most important lesson of all.
“Once in Apatzingan a cameraman and I were taken,” says Miguel Garcia Tinoco, a 40-year-old journalist and owner of the Notivideo video news website based in Michoacan.
“They took us to talk with a drug-trafficking boss on a street in Apatzingan, and they wanted to make us write what they wanted, what they wanted to communicate.”
This group of traffickers gained infamy three years ago when they tossed the severed heads of six enemies onto the dance floor of a nightclub.
“They wanted us to publish an explanation of why they’d murdered those six people. What we told them was that we couldn’t make a decision in terms of what we published or didn’t publish in the newspaper – that it was up to the editor. And in the end my editor decided not to publish anything at all.”
Antonio Ramos Tafolla, a 58-year-old reporter in the same state as Garcia, was kidnapped and beaten up by a group he says he was never able to identify.
“It limited me and the boldness that I had before to write. It limited me but it didn’t shut me up or stop me thinking, but I have more reservations now.”
Some don’t get granted any conditions. Ramos said that a colleague of his went missing two years ago and has never reappeared. Garcia says the same of two other fellow journalists in Michoacan. They are three of the eight journalists currently listed as missing in Mexico.
It’s not only reporters covering Mexico’s drug traffickers and organized crime networks that run the risk of reprisals. These journalists recounted tales from covering everything from car accidents, massacres and assassinations, to shoot-outs, kidnappings and election campaigns.
Run-ins with the federal police, the army and local governors are common for any reporter who questions local power networks.
“Sadly, the army has seen us, to a certain point, as enemies,” Garcia said.
“They close their operations and don’t let us film, they don’t let us into some crime scenes to get information … And they also take away our gear and they assault us.”
Back in the classroom Dr. Ana Zellhuber gives the journalists some practical guidance in dealing both with people who have just come out of emergency situations, as well their own emotional reactions to tough circumstances.
“You’re not heroes,” she says. “You’re reporters. Everyone has a duty to perform – do yours. Don’t turn yourselves into one of the victims.”
Stories unfolded in the classroom. One of the four women on the course, a reporter from Tijuana, talked about the time she was approached by a man who said the Mexican Army had massacred people in his town.
She didn’t know what to do because as the man told her his story she knew she was going to cry but she worried that crying would draw attention to herself.
“There are no wrong emotions,” said Zellhuber. “And there are always emotions.”
Monica Franco is a 31-year-old journalist working in Puebla.
“Intimidation is a daily reality for us,” she told me.
“We’re not just intimidated by the police – we’re intimidated by government spheres, by press officers, intimidated by politicians and by civilians who now don’t see us as allies.
“A lot of co-workers end up losing the point of why we’re here, which is to inform and give a voice to those people who don’t have one. And that’s what leads a lot of people to see us as enemies of society.”
Franco hits on an interesting point. Some of the journalists that have been killed here in Mexico over the last few years (see here for more numbers) were targeted as a direct result of reports they’d filed.
But in Mexico, where training is in short supply, wages are pitifully low and reporters aren’t protected or helped by their employers, it’s easy to see how they themselves can fall prey to corruption.
Franco says that someone broke into her home in Puebla. The burglars only stole journalism gear, nothing else.
“Instead of helping us we were intimidated by the police and told that due to our jobs, they could break into our homes, she said.”
They never learned who did the break in, Franco says.
“We just put up a stronger gate on the front door.”
Article 19 and the Rory Peck Trust organized the survival course, which took place between May 17th – 22nd in Toluca, Mexico.
A couple of non-profits who work on press freedom and protection issues here in Mexico, the Rory Peck Trust and Article 19, got together and ran a course just outside Mexico City this month for 18 journalists living and working here.
During the five-day course, the participants, who came from states all over Mexico, from Michoacan all the way to Tijuana in Baja California, were “kidnapped”, dodged tear gas, learned first aid, and received psychological training on how to deal with emergencies.
See the video for more.
Video: Mexican journalists put through their survival paces, by Deborah Bonello.
Mexico’s “Museum of Drugs,” buried up on the seventh floor of the Defence Ministry, isn’t open to the public. The installation was designed as an educational tool for military personnel who have been tasked with fighting Mexico’s narco-trafficantes and organized crime networks. It explains the methods that drug traffickers use to get their product around and out of the country, as well as the strategies that the army employs to try and stop them.
Last week, I was invited to speak at the University of Texas Pan America about this website, MexicoReporter.com, violence against journalists in Mexico, the drug war coverage and how new technologies are contributing to the journalism beast. So I went.
The day started with a panel discussion about media coverage of the “drug war” in Mexico. I can’t help but put those two word in commas because, well, it just makes it sound so dramatic. Although it IS dramatic — the violence I mean — it’s not like the whole country is at war. Far from it.
The panel was filled by three representatives from local media, as well as three journalists from Mexico – none of whom spoke great English so a lot of the discussion was lost in translation.
The panel session was rather like a lot of television news – about a mile wide and an inch deep. It was frustrating because it focused so much on the current border violence plaguing the line between Mexico and the United States, without delving any deeper.
As I said pointed out during the discussion, the drug-related border violence between Mexico and the United States is really just the head of the beer – the violence is present in many of the country’s states and failing to report that misrepresents the problem.
Failing to report the U.S’s seemingly insatiable appetite for narcotics — which is the main driver between the illegal trade — is also problematic. One of the speakers described the responsibility of the U.S for the drug violence problems in Mexico as a “school of thought.” I’d say it’s a hard fact, not a theory. People buy fair trade coffee but then roll up a joint or have a few lines of coke at the weekend — chances are they haven’t stopped to think much about where their drugs come from and at what price in the same way that they worry about the origins of their coffee.
There was also a lot of concern over whether the border violence is “spilling over” into the United States. There was a lot of difference of opinion over that issue, and not one that I could apply any of my own experience to being based mainly in Mexico City. What I DO know that the Los Angeles Times (full disclosure: I spend the majority of my time working for them) has reported drug-related incidents spilling over into the United States here and here.
It’s also been reported by the LATimes that the drug cartels are moving in on the people smuggling business.
The other thing the television reporters during the event in Texas were especially were keen to talk about was what they see as the similarity between Mexico with the Iraq and Afghanistan.
That was a hard one for me to sit still through. Although the drug-related violence around Mexico is widespread and brutal, there are also huge swathes of the country — Mexico City being one of them — where you wouldn’t even know that there was a “war” on between the drug traffickers, as well as between them and law enforcement .
It’s my understanding that the vast majority of the 7,300 or so people that have been killed in drug-related violence since the start of 2007, when Calderon’s offensive began in earnest, are either law enforcement agents, drug traffickers or people involved in some way with the drug trade. Innocent civilians have been caught in the cross-fire, but they’re in the minority.
The media coverage of the drug war shows us how now more than ever, in these times of media accountability and economic hardships, we have to balance information and news provision with a need to entertain and engage audiences.
Everyone wants to report accurately, but they also want good ratings / reading figures / hits. Good reporting takes time and money — the internet means that news rolls now, there ARE no deadlines. Blood and guts gets more viewers / readers. In a time and cash-poor world, its understandable that alot of coverage focuses on the blood and guts of the illegal drug story. Understandable, but is it forgivable?
Peter Gabriel, the musician and activist, implored Mexico President Felipe Calderon to show “real political will, muscle and budget” in investigating the hundreds of unsolved murders of young women in the border town of Ciudad Juarez in the state of Chihuahua Friday.
Speaking to a packed press conference through a translator, and flanked by Mexican film star Diego Luna and musician Saul Hernandez from the band Jaguares, Gabriel said that he asks no more young women have to suffer the same fate as more than the 300 girls and young women who have been murdered in the border town since 1993.
He also asked that “all those families who are still suffering an enormous pain have the chance to find out the truth of what happened to their kids, to their family members, and to get some kind of justice and reparation.”
Towards the end of the press conference, Gabriel was asked what he thought about the current levels of drug-related violence in Mexico and whether Calderon’s military strategy would be a success. The drug war in Mexico has killed more than 7,000 people since the beginning of 2008 — read more about it here.
Gabriel answered that a new, global approach was needed to fight the illegal drug trade, and that, in his opinion, legalization of drugs is the obvious solution.
“I would rather the doctors were administering the drugs than the drug traffickers,” said the musician.
Peter Gabriel is a prominent human-rights activist, and in 1992 founded the nonprofit group Witness, which uses video and online technologies to bring human-rights violations to light.
A press release from the federal government about the meeting between Calderon and Gabriel reported that “President Calderón pledged to combat any abuse of authority and to promote the repairs of damage to victims. At the same time, he confirmed his government’s will to combat impunity. He said that federal forces are collaborating with the local authorities to solve the cases of feminicides.”
See the video for footage from the press conference.
The music of Mexico’s drug trade has taken a beating lately. As we reported from Tijuana last year, some radio stations south of the border have stopped playing the songs and promoters have banned the music from many public events. Nightclub owners ask bands to turn down narcocorrido requests.
Richard Marosi wrote: Narcocorridos still draw legions of fans, despite government
efforts to squelch the music. Calor Norteña played the song about
Villarreal only because of repeated requests from hard-drinking
bar-goers. But it was a momentary exception to a backlash that has
succeeded like none before in changing people’s attitudes toward the
music, say members of several bands, nightclub owners, concert
promoters and government officials.
They describe a growing dislike, even revulsion, for music that critics
say celebrates the people terrorizing a community that has suffered at
least 207 violent deaths this year. Attendance at narcocorrido concerts
has dipped; bands say audiences request the music less and less,
preferring dance and romantic tunes that take their minds off the
But Mexican artist Cristina Rubalcava wasn’t put off by the controversy. After writing a song for los Tigres Del Norte about the controversial 670-mile fence project along the U.S.-Mexico border, she got to listening to some of the band’s narcocorridos and created a mural that illustrates phrases from more than 40 of their canciones. Watch the video for more.
Mexico City’s Museo de la Ciudad is playing host to a photojournalism exhibition — Expofotoperiodismo — that features nearly 50 photos from 2008. You can see some of the images featured in the show in the above slide show.
All images appear courtesy of the Museum de la Ciudad, and the show runs until April 19th.
But “Voces Silenciadas” (Silenced Voices), a documentary film that was part of the Ambulante film festival here, broadens the debate around the persecution of journalists to encompass the bigger issues of media ownership and the relationship between the media and Mexico’s political powers.
Director Maria del Carmen De Lara doesn’t simply examine the dozens of unsolved cases of murdered and disappeared journalists in Mexico over the last couple of years –- she delves deeper, looking at media monopolies in Mexico and how those affect press freedom more broadly.
Aristegui’s “Hoy Por Hoy” morning news program had been on for five years and was one of the most listened to in Mexico when it was cut from the airwaves. Aristegui has since returned to radio news on a different network, but De Lara says her case shows how concentrated media ownership in Mexico has reduced the range of opinions in Mexico’s media and silence unwanted ones.
You can see Aristegui explain the circumstances behind her case in the video below, first shown in this La Plaza post.
In the documentary, De Lara makes her point mostly through a series of interviews with prominent Mexican journalists, analysts and writers, as well as media executives. Those interviews are interspersed with an audio recording of her repeatedly calling Televisa, part owner of W Radio, for an interview about Aristegui’s case — an interview that is eventually granted but sheds no new light on the case. Mexico’s giant Grupo Televisa multimedia company and Grupo Prisa, Spain’s largest media conglomerate, are joint owners of W Radio.
The format of the documentary is where it sags because the film is mainly a series of talking heads, sometimes accompanied by images of satirical cartoons snipped from Mexican newspapers. None of the visual material does justice to the urgency of the problems facing the press here in Mexico, which is a shame, because the issues of freedom of expression and violence against journalists here are serious.
But De Lara’s interviewees do make a great case.
On leaving the cinema, I was disappointed as a viewer with the format of the documentary and didn’t feel I’d learned anything I didn’t already know. But on reflection, it occurred to me that foreign journalists were not the target audience of this film. The cinema is a good place to reach at least some average Mexican citizens, most of whom get their news from television. A massive 92% of Mexico’s television stations are owned by just two companies -– Televisa and TV Azteca -– which is De Lara’s point.
“I want the people to see the whole story that has been the struggle for a different kind of journalism in Mexico, a journalism that’s more diverse and inclusive,” she said in a telephone interview from Puebla, Mexico.
“That they understand what are the pressures for journalists, that the people understand another view of things, that they have other information, which this documentary has also done, for history.”
She also said she wants to show that, since the 1984 assassination of one of Mexico’s most prominent journalists, Manuel Buendia, Mexico “continues to have situations of impunity and situations that violate fundamental human rights.”
At the time of writing, there was no distribution deal signed to take the documentary to the United States, but De Lara was in conversations about possibly showing the film in London.
Image: A publicity poster for the documentary “Voces Silenciadas” (Silenced Voices). Credit: Ambulante.com.mx. Video: Deborah Bonello / Los Angeles Times
Freedom of expression advocates in Mexico have issued yet another missive in support of the country’s long-suffering journalistic community.
The special prosecutor’s office for crimes against journalists, created in 2006 by the Mexican government of then-President Vicente Fox, is ineffective, lacks independence and is poorly funded, according to a report by the international freedom of expression nonprofit group Article 19.
Speaking at a news conference in the Casa Lamm cultural center in Mexico City on Friday, Dario Ramirez, head of Article 19 here, said the role of the FEADP, or Fiscalia Especial Para la Atencion de Delitos Cometidos Contra Periodistas, had not been adequately defined.
“That means that the scope of prosecution and protection is limited and ambiguous,” Ramirez said.
Article 19 says that 29 journalists have been killed and eight have disappeared in Mexico since 2000. Most cases remain unsolved, in part because of the inefficacy of the FEADP, according to the nonprofit. It and other organizations claim that a “culture of impunity” exists in Mexico, created by the failure to bring to justice those who kill or harass journalists.
“The inability to resolve these cases not only contributes to the climate of impunity, but it encourages future aggressions,” Ramirez said.
Sanjuana Martinez, a Mexican journalist who received death threats after reporting the alleged sexual abuse of young boys by Catholic priests in the United States and Mexico, also attended the launch of the report.
”We have a saying here in Mexico: If you want to hide something, create an attorney general’s office,” she said.
Only a few months ago, the head of the FEADP, Octavio Orellana Wiarco, said that reports of violence against journalists in Mexico were being exaggerated and that “there is a mistaken perception that Mexico is the country where the largest number of homicides of journalists takes place. This is not true.”
His comments sparked incredulity among Mexican journalists and their defenders.
Ramirez was keen to stress that the purpose of the Article 19 report is not to demand the termination of the FEADP but rather to adjust it to make it a stronger, more effective institution.
The statement from the nonprofit recommended — among other things — changing the focus of the legal body from protecting journalists to protecting freedom of expression and to improving the FEADP’s transparency and accountability.
Carmen Aristegui, one of Mexico’s most prominent journalists, disappeared from the Mexican radio airwaves last year in a cloud of controversy.
As Reed Johnson reported in January 2008, “Aristegui’s departure from W Radio set off a flurry of op-ed commentary in Mexico City newspapers. Several commentators have denounced the incident as an act of censorship and harassment by media and governmental interests.”
Now Aristegui’s back with a new radio news show –- this time on a different network. The journalist, who continued to host her nightly television news show on CNN Español during her radio hiatus, returns to the Mexican airwaves from 6 – 10 every weekday morning on MVS Radio.
She took some time out to speak to the Los Angeles Times about why her show got silenced last year, and the reality for journalists working in Mexico.
You can watch a video of protests over her departure last year here, and the Spanish-language version of the interview is below.
Mexicans might be encouraged to do a bit of soul-searching today by a United Nations campaign, which has declared December 9th International Anti-Corruption Day.
Why should Mexico be particularly interested? Because, as we reported today, more than 5,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence so far this year – that’s more than double the toll for that time period in 2007. Although a lot of the violence is being put down to infighting within the drug gangs, corruption within Mexico’s police force and legal branch is also a major obstacle to bringing down the powerful drug networks.
President Felipe Calderon‘s government is currently undergoing a probe called Operation Cleanup, which has resulted in a number of ugly discoveries within its ranks. As Tracy Wilkinson reports in the dispatch linked above: “Mexican law enforcement has also suffered its worst corruption scandal in a decade, with dozens of senior officials and agents accused of accepting money to pass secrets to traffickers.”
Noe Ramirez Mandujano, for example, a veteran federal prosecutor who headed an elite organized crime unit known by its initials in Spanish, SIEDO, was arrested in November on suspicion of passing intelligence to drug gangsters based in the northwestern state of Sinaloa, reported Ken Ellingwood.
A TV spot from the United Nations campaign marking today can be seen below, and shows how corruption is the responsibility of everyone, not just law officials. Few Mexicans and foreigners living in this country can honestly say that they haven’t in some way sanctioned a corrupt system, even if it’s something as small as paying off a policeman to get him out of one’s hair or tipping the garbage collectors for collecting the trash.
As we reported in April, Mexicans paid the equivalent of about $2.6 billion in bribes last
year, according to the nonprofit group Transparency Mexico. That’s 42%
higher than two years earlier and an average of more than $24 for each
of Mexico’s 105 million people. Much of the money went to fix parking tickets, get garbage collected
or secure parking spots from the legions of informal attendants who
block off spaces and charge for them.
Almost everyone who lives in Mexico shares blame because so many turn a blind eye to the corruption of others. So it’s smart of the spot to focus on individual responsibility.
On a side note, activism for a reduction of corruption around the globe is based around the U.N.’s Convention Against Corruption, which of course, Mexico has signed and ratified. The 2003 Convention was opened for signing by participating states in Merida, Mexico.
A television, radio and print advertising campaign called “What you don’t know can hurt you (“Te hace daño no saber” in Spanish)” is to launch here in Mexico in an attempt by press freedom groups to raise public awareness about violence against journalists and to demand more action from the government of President Felipe Calderon.
At a candlelit presentation Tuesday night in the Interactive Economy Museum in downtown Mexico City, domestic and international organizations announced the campaign to an audience of several hundred people. They hope to bring an end to what they claim is impunity for those who commit crimes against journalists in Mexico.
Since 2000, 28 journalists have been killed in Mexico and eight have disappeared, according to Article 19, one of the organizations sponsoring the advertising campaign. Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission says the figure is actually higher and that 45 journalists have been killed in the same period. Mexico is the deadliest country in the Americas for journalists, according to Reporters Without Borders, and reporters who cover organized crime are especially at risk.
In recent weeks, Miguel Angel Villagomez Valle, editor of the newspaper La Noticia, was killed in Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan state. Also killed were David Garcia Monroy, columnist for El Diario, in Chihuahua, and reporter Jose Armando Rodriguez Carreon, also of El Diario, in Ciudad Juarez.
“The response of the Mexican state in all of these cases has been the same — immunity for those behind the crimes,” said Brisa Solis, executive director of the National Center of Social Communication (CENCOS), another of the groups supporting the campaign.
Expressing solidarity were several Mexican journalists, including Lydia Cacho, who has become a symbol of the persecution of journalists here in Mexico.
Cacho says that she was arrested illegally, taken to the end of a pier and told to jump by state police from Puebla after she published a book alleging the existence of a pedophile ring in Cancun in 2005. Her case against her alleged aggressors went all the way to Mexico’s Supreme Court, which ultimately ruled, controversially, that although there was evidence of crimes against Cacho, her rights weren’t violated enough to warrant further action.
“The defense of our reporters is a vital factor in the guarantee of our access to information, and to make decisions in a free, autonomous way,” Cacho said during last night’s event.
The first phase of the campaign — which opens in the media today — will be aimed at raising awareness, and the second phase will take more of an advocacy approach. The campaign is being supported by a number of press freedom nonprofits: The Global Latin America Community Radio Assn. (AMARC), the Mexican Assn. for the Right to Information (AMEDI), Women’s Communication and Information (CIMAC), Fundacion Manuel Buendia, the Institute for Security and Democracy (INSYDE), Reporters Without Borders, The National Journalism Prize, the Mexican Press and Democracy Foundation (PRENDE), Universidad Iberoamericana, the Rory Peck Trust and the National Press Editors Assn. It is being funded by CENCOS and Article 19.
TV spots for the campaign show the names of journalists who have been killed or disappeared in Mexico. The names appear over a white background, until they eventually obliterate all of the white.
Photo: One of the campaign ads, which asks: “If they’re not there, who is going to inform us?” Credit: Article 19.
*Edited Dec 5th, 2008, 9:35a.m Mexico City time. The campaign is being supported, but not funded, by a range of non-profits. It is being funded by Article 19 and Cencos.
Mexico’s National Commission of Human Rights (CNDH is its Spanish acronym) appealed to authorities over the weekend to investigate thoroughly the recent killings of a number of journalists here, and to put an end to the impunity for those who murder members of the profession.
Since 2000, 45 journalists have been killed in Mexico, according to the latest missive on the issue from the human rights body. Those who cover organized crime are especially at risk.
The appeal from the CNDH follows the recent murders of Miguel Ángel Villagómez Valle, editor of the newspaper La Noticia, in Lázaro Cárdenas, Michoacán state; David García Monroy, columnist from El Diario, Chihuahua; and José Armando Rodríguez Carreón, from El Diario in Ciudad Juárez, in the state of Chihuahua.
The largest number of killings of journalists has been in Tamaulipas, where nine cases were recorded since 2000. Six journalists were slain in Chihuahua, and four in each of the following states: Veracruz, Oaxaca and Michoacán.
The CNDH also refers to the recent attack on the offices of the Culiacán newspaper El Debate earlier this month, which it said was an attack on the fundamental rights of the newspaper’s workers. Two grenades were thrown at the offices in the early hours of the morning of Nov. 17. No one was hurt.
Towards the end of last week, the global non-profit Reporters Without Borders issued a statement appealing to the international community, and especially the United States and Canada, to grant asylum to journalists fleeing Mexico.
Violence against journalists in Mexico has become increasingly intense over the last few years. In 2007, Reporters Without Borders said in its annual report that the country in 2006 was second only to Iraq in dangers for journalists.
Today, the CNDH said that it “deplores…the lack of results from investigations to identify and apprehend those responsible.”
Reporters Without Borders issued an appeal to the international community today to provide asylum for journalists fleeing Mexican cities such a Ciudad Juarez. The non-profit appealed especially to the United States and Canada to provide humanitarian assistance.
Journalists in Mexico who cover organized crime are often risking their lives. The move from the global press-protection network comes in the wake the murder of Armando Rodriguez, crime reporter on El Diario, who was shot dead in Ciudad Juarez last week, and the problems some journalists are experiencing in attempting to escape Mexico.
Emilio Gutiérrez Soto, a fellow reporter of Rodriguez at El Diario, fled to the United States in June because he was getting death threats, reports Reporters Without Borders. But the non-profit claims that Gutiérrez Soto has been detained in the Texan border town of El Paso since June after entering the United States “in an unauthorized manner – while his asylum request is considered”.
“Gutiérrez has remained in detention despite a recent reminder by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees about the obligation to provide asylum. He could remain there
for several more months as a hearing scheduled for today has been postponed until March.“
Gutiérrez Soto is not the only journalist to have fled Mexico. As we reported yesterday, Jorge Luis Aguirre, director of the news website La Polaka, fled Mexico yesterday with his family to the United States after receiving death threats in his home city of Ciudad Juárez.
Luís Horacio Najera, a correspondent for the national daily Reforma, is currently in Canada, and the managing editor of Reforma, Alejandro Junco de la Vega, went to the United States several months ago for what he said were safety reasons.
Reporters Without Borders said:
“Claudio Tiznado, a reporter with Géneros, a newspaper based in Hermosillo, in the northwestern state of Sonora, requested asylum in Tucson, Arizona, in May 2007 but was unsuccessful and returned to Mexico a few months later.
“Misael Habana had a similar experience. Habana used to co-produce a news programme on the privately-owned national TV station Televisa with Amado Ramírez, who was murdered in Acapulco, in the southwestern state of Guerrero, on 6 April 2007. He requested asylum in Canada but gave up after seeing it was going to take a very long time.”
Jorge Luis Aguirre, director of the news website “La Polaka,” has fled Mexico with his family to the United States after receiving death threats in his home city of Ciudad Juárez, in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua.
His departure follows the killing of crime reporter Armando Rodríguez last week, who was shot to death on Thursday November 13th when he was in his car.
Aguirre told the Center for Journalism and Public Ethics (CEPET), a non-profit based in Mexico City, that when he was on the way to reporter Armando Rodríguez Carreón’s funeral last week he received a call on his cell phone.
“They told me, ‘You’re next,’ and because of the way things are, I decided to take my family and leave,” said Aguirre.
“I left everything: my house, my office. I left my car in a public parking lot. I was very scared. I didn’t ask the authorities for help, I don’t trust them.”
BorderReporter.com did some digging around about what was going on just before Armando Rodríguez was killing last week.
I’ve ascertained a few details from Juárez, some chismes that a few birds sang last night.
On October 29, Rodriguez, a cops reporter for El Diario, had co-written a story about the murder of a nephew of Chihuahua State Attorney General Patricia Gonzalez. The story in its entirety is at the end of this posting in case it’s removed from the Diario site. He pretty much knocked that one out of the ballpark.
The nephew, Andrés Sanchez Pineda was murdered along with two other men. Forty-three AK-47 rounds were found at the scene.
In the story, Rodriguez and the other reporter noted that the nephew, Andrés Sanchez Pineda had been arrested in El Paso, Texas, three years before for trafficking more than 350 pounds of weed. He pleaded guilty, admitting that he was supposed to haul the weed in a tractor-trailer to Tennessee. Carry on reading here…
When he was murdered in late October, he’d been driving a Dodge Ram truck that belonged to the State of Chihuahua. Sanchez was not a government employee.
“La Polaka” is an online political newspaper that frequently, according to CEPET, publishes critical reports. It covers information from the state capital of Chihuahua City, Ciudad Juárez, and El Paso, Texas.
The persecution of journalists here in Mexico is common. Just this weekend, two grenades were thrown at the offices of the Culiacán newspaper El Debate. The explosions, which shattered windows but caused no injuries. Click here for more.
– Deborah Bonello in Mexico City
Reports are surfacing this morning that the offices of the Culiacán newspaper El Debate were attacked with two grenades early Monday. The explosions, which shattered windows but caused no injuries, happened at around 1a.m when two youngsters wearing white shirts threw the grenades at the main entrance to the offices, reports La Jornada.
The area has been cordoned off by the Army.
El Debate is the largest newspaper in Sinaloa and “fairly aggressive in its organized crime coverage”, according to BorderReporter.com. As Tracy Wilkinson reported earlier this year, the city of Culiacán is the birthplace of Mexico’s multi-million dollar drug trade and home to some of the major players in Mexico’s powerful drug cartels.
El Debate is not the first newspaper to be targeted with grenades in Mexico, where attacks against journalists and the media – especially those who cover organized crime – are depressingly frequent. More than 30 reporters have died or disappeared in Mexico since 2000, the group Reporters Without Borders says.
In May last year, Cambio in the Northern State of Sonora closed its doors after two grenade attacks and what its editor said was a failure on the part of the Government to protect its 250 employees. In October 2007, journalists of the Oaxacan newspaper “El Imparcial del Istmo” resigned out of fear for their lives following the killing of three of the newspaper’s employees and repeated threats after the newspaper reported the finding of a grave containing seven corpses.
In February 2006, the offices of El Mañana newspaper in Nuevo Laredo were attacked by men wielding grenades and assault rifles. A reporter was left paralyzed and the paper later announced that it
would cease producing investigative reports on drug trafficking.