The Newspaper That Doesn’t Hold Back
Above is an FJP interview with Bernardo Ruiz, director of the documentary Reportero, on the making of the film. Last week we posted an interview with him about violence against journalists in Mexico:
Since 2006, 48 journalists in Mexico have been killed, but even this is a conservative estimate, Ruiz says. Over the past 3 years, Mexico has reached number 8 on CPJ’s impunity index, which records the number of unsolved murders of journalists around the world.
The film, both chilling and riveting, follows Seminario Zeta, a hard-hitting investigative weekly newspaper based in Tijuana. Ruiz takes us through the history of the paper’s founding in 1980, during the PRI era when Mexico’s authoritarian and repressive government was intolerant of any criticism. Despite this, Jesús Blancornelas, a journalist fired from five papers for his gutsy editorial stance, decided the only way to practice honest, investigative journalism was to create a paper run by journalists, free of any governmental or corporate interests.
The paper was published in the United States, where Blancornelas had been exiled, and his wife would take pages across the border to edit two or three times a day. To this day, it is still printed in California and then imported into Mexico—an expensive way to ensure freedom of expression.
The film follows the staff of Zeta through its history and over the last few years in Mexico, building a nuanced, shocking portrait of what life for Mexican journalists is like. Ruiz takes us through process of reporting each narco story, the steps taken to armor cars, security measures taken against threats faced by reporters, and the murders of colleagues. The film is filled with photographs from Zeta’s early days, to present day murders and attacks.
FJP takeaway: Freedom of expression is a practice you choose. Taking what precaution against danger they can—and threats in stride—the staff of Zeta prove that the only way to guarantee freedom of expression is to reach for it with all your might, take risks, and never give up.
“You could see our writers crying as they typed,” says Zeta co-director Adel Navarro of a murder attempt on Blancornelas. “Because our leader was fighting for his life.”
More: See the trailer here. Follow the Reportero Project here.