Silence or Death

Posted: August 12, 2012 by jennroig in Articles, English, Reviews
Tags: , , , ,

Cecilia Rinaldi and Anabel Hernández, conference at the International Journalism Festival, Perugia, 2011

(Review of the Conference in the 2011 IJF, addressing the violence against journalists in Mexico. Originally published on the IJF ezine)

Silence or death: such slogan seems to portray the current state of the Mexican journalism. Only in 2010, fourteen reporters were murdered. And according to the Mexican National Commission for the Human Rights, during the last decade sixty-eight journalists were killed in the practice of their job. Other twelve were reported disappeared and eighteen media outlets had been attacked. The danger of working as journalist in Mexico is only comparable to the risks in Pakistan or Honduras.

Drug cartels are not the only responsible for violence. Law and order forces, as well as politicians and government functionaries are considered to be somehow involved in the coercion of journalists. Anabel Hernandez’s research proves the point. She published a book –Los señores del Narco– uncovering the hidden links between the Mexican government and the Sinaloa cartel.

Journalists like her, who commit in the investigation of drug trafficking, end up realizing that a bigger threat might come from government functionaries and authorities who support the cartels and accept profits from them.

Self-censorship and omnipresent corruption are two main consequences of the increasing power of drug cartels there. If bloody money doesn’t buy the silence of those in charge to inform the society, death threats will hang upon the lives. Just a few dare to resist the pressure and take the chances of telling the truth.

Violence against journalists in Mexico is not a new phenomenon. Lately, it has only escalated. In 2008, the Center for Journalism and Public Ethics –CEPET – reported a total of seventeen cases of aggression supposedly related to the drug cartels. The bullets took the lives of two journalists and three communicators. According the CEPET, Chihuahua was the most violent state, followed by Oaxaca, Veracruz and the capital city, Mexico DF. But the violence targeting journalism in Mexico does not stop in threatening the practitioners. It also reached the media outlets. The main office of El Debate, a local newspaper in the Sinaloa region was damaged because of an attack with hand grenades.

Violence in Ciudad Juárez

Gennaro Carotenuto, expert on Latin American issues from the University of Macerata, provided further background information. As he pointed out, the introduction of the maquilas in the US-Mexican border in the 70’s created a social situation in which cartels could easily develop. Ciudad Juárez, icon of the mayhem, was forgotten by the Mexican federal government. No one prevented that a growing city would need further schools for the sons and daughters of the young women who were moving there in search of jobs and better chances. Today, teenagers in Juárez must join the cartels not out of will, but because they lack of any better choice. Carotenuto highlighted another historical element. In 1994, Mexico signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). That signature was also killing its agriculture system, leaving a trace of unemployment. Farmers who were left without a source of income had no other option but turning into cartel soldiers or mules.

Nowadays, in Mexico the power of Money joins the power of violence. However, the most pressing warning that the speakers gave at the meeting in Perugia was that the situation in Mexico matters not only to Mexico, the USA or Latin America. Even if Europe sees very distant the trace of chaos and blood that drug cartels are leaving behind, the truth remains that drug traffic is the most globalized industry. Drug cartels have understood better than anyone the mechanisms and principles an increasingly globalized economy. Therefore, the danger hangs over the whole world.

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