Friday, May 25, 2012



Note: A regular scan of much U.S. based border media would suggest
there nothing at all happening with Mexico and drug war. No problema.

Headlines or headstones: Mexico journalists face dire choice
May 22, 2012 11:04 PM
Ildefonso Ortiz
The Monitor

REYNOSA — Constant threats and reprisals have created a self-imposed
muzzle on Mexican news outlets when it comes to stories about
organized crime in the northern Mexican cities.

The constant threats of retaliation, attacks and manipulation of the
media by organized crime have created an environment similar to
working in a designated war zone, said Celeste Gonzalez, an assistant
professor at the School of Journalism and Center for Latin American
Studies at the University of Arizona.

Gonzalez said the only difference between reporting in Mexico and a
designated war zone is the lack of rules of engagement and
operational procedures.

"Journalists and newsroom editors are making up the rules as they go
along in order to stay alive," said Gonzalez, who is researching the
current conditions of journalists in Mexico. "Journalists in Mexico
are experiencing unprecedented levels of violence and repression, and
it appears that in the run-up to the presidential election, the
violence in various parts of the country and the repression against
journalists and human rights workers has intensified."


In the past month, two Tamaulipas newspapers were strafed by gunfire,
while three Veracruz journalists were executed — presumably for their

One of the shootings, May 7 in Reynosa, targeted the offices of Hora
Cero. No injuries were reported, but just four days later, El Mañana
de Nuevo Laredo was shot at by another group of unknown gunmen.

Soon after the attack, El Mañana ran an editorial stating it would
stop publishing stories about organized crime.

El Mañana is run by Ninfa Deandar, while Hora Cero is run by her
relative, Heriberto Deandar Robinson. It remains unclear if the
attack at both publications was targeted at a specific news article,
the newspapers or the Deandar family.

On May 18, Mexican authorities in the state of Sonora found the body
of Marco Antonio Avila Garcia, a crime reporter for El Regional de
Sonora. The find comes just one day after the journalist had been
kidnapped by gunmen at a local carwash in Ciudad Obregón, according
to a news release.

In the state of Veracruz, Proceso magazine correspondent Regina
Martinez was strangled to death April 28 inside her home in the state
capital of Xalapa. Just days later, three other journalists — Gabriel
Huge, Guillermo Luna Varela and Esteban Rodriguez — were tortured and
killed in the Boca del Rio area.

Since 2006, 30 journalists have been killed in Mexico, according to
Reporters Without Borders.


It has become commonplace for journalists to receive threatening
calls or worse from presumed members of organized crime who tell
journalists what to report, what not to report and sometimes how to
report it, Gonzalez said.

The pressure from members of organized crime, which could include
cartel members as much as corrupt government officials, seriously
impedes the ability of journalists to inform the public, she said.

"Obviously this has created a horrible situation in which journalists
are working and, in some cases, risking their lives," the professor
said. "All journalists in Mexico work under a presumed threat,
although those who are brave enough to cover organized crime are the
most at risk."

The quality of investigative journalism especially on the local level
has declined sharply over the past six years. In some cases,
newspapers have made the decision to not cover organized crime at
all. In other cases, news organizations publish only stories with
official (government) sources, which leads to information from one
perspective only — the government's.

One of the exceptions is El Diaro de Juarez, which continues to press
public officials. But the newspaper has paid a heavy price. Two of
its staff have been slain in the past four years.

Because of the increasing level of violence and repression against
primarily local journalists working in Mexico, there are now numerous
cases of journalists seeking asylum in other countries, Gonzalez said.

"Two years ago, the head of one of Mexico's leading news
organizations — Grupo Reforma — Alejandro Junco de la Vega moved
members of his family out of the country because of the level of
intimidation" they were subjected to.

The risk was very true for Matamoros reporter Cecilio Cortez, who was
kidnapped, beaten and robbed of his equipment on the morning of Nov.
2, 2011, as he walked home from work. He was released later that day,
but the journalist says he still doesn't know the exact reasons for
the kidnapping.

"This is the type of situation where if it isn't talked about, no one
is going to known about it," Cortez said in Spanish.

After the ordeal, Cortez sought political asylum in the U.S. and is
in the middle of that process.

"In some areas of Mexico, such as Nuevo Laredo and what is known as
the 'Frontera Chica' south of the Texas-Tamaulipas, border, it is
almost impossible for journalists to cover daily news," Gonzalez said.


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