Let us say that you are a Mexican reporter working for peanuts at a local television station somewhere in the provinces—the state of Durango, for example—and that one day you get a friendly invitation from a powerful drug-trafficking group. Imagine that it is the Zetas, and that thanks to their efforts in your city several dozen people have recently perished in various unspeakable ways, while justice turned a blind eye. Among the dead is one of your colleagues. Now consider the invitation, which is to a press conference to be held punctually on the following Friday, at a not particularly out of the way spot just outside of town. You were, perhaps, considering going instead to a movie? Keep in mind, the invitation notes, that attendance will be taken by the Zetas.
Imagine now that you arrive on the appointed day at the stated location, and that you are greeted by several expensively dressed, highly amiable men. Once the greetings are over, they have something to say, and the tone changes. We would like you, they say, to be considerate of us in your coverage. We have seen or heard certain articles or news reports that are unfair and, dare we say, displeasing to us. Displeasing. We have our eye on you. We would like you to consider the consequences of offending us further. We know you would not look forward to the result. We give warning, but we give no quarter. You are dismissed.
Today, on behalf of El Faro, I receive the Anna Politkovskaya award with great pride. However, I think that such recognition should also be given to other journalists in the Central American region who are going through really alarming situations.
Nowadays, 75% of murdered journalists do not die in war zones. Instead, they are being killed deliberately only to be silenced. In fact, Mexico and Honduras are the most dangerous countries in the world to practice journalism.
Recently, an NGO passed along a questionnaire to several local journalists in Mexico and asked what could international organizations do to support their work. Several responded that they wanted a firearm, and one of them explained: “I want a gun so they cannot catch me alive.”
Background: Dada and his colleagues operate under constant and very real threats in one of the most hazardous regions of the world for independent journalists. El Faro was also awarded the 2012 WOLA Human Rights Award last month, and the Columbia School of Journalism’s Maria Moors Cabot Prize back in 2011.
There are parts of the country where criminal groups decide what gets published and what doesn’t.
Jose Carreno, Ibero-American University. Al Jazeera, Mexico media office torched in Monterrey.
The News: A branch office for El Norte was attacked Sunday by armed men who doused the building with gasoline before setting it on fire. This is the third attack on a Mexican media outlet in the last month.
Background: Mexico is the world’s third most dangerous place to be a journalist, according to Reporters Without Borders. You can see some of what’s been happening by viewing our Mexico Tag.