Talk! (If you want to die) – On Journalism in Mexico

It is an obvious fact now throughout the world that journalism is a dangerous job in Latin America, and meanwhile this could be called a stereotype by some countries, it definitely is not in Mexico for instance.
The issue arises in Mexico in two different eras, when it was ruled by a dictatorship regime, it was clear that the government posed sanctions on whoever talks or writes against them. But, it was all high hopes for journalism in Mexico when the dictatorship seized and a democtratic government was elected. However, the complications of the drug cartels. In Fact, a first page publication by El Diario, a newspaper on the Mexican border with the United States from the city of Juarez, shocked the world and especially journalists, because they asked for guidelines from the drug cartel that functions in the area. “Gentlemen…please explain to us…what you would like us to publish or stop publishing…because the last thing we want is for another one of our colleagues to fall victim to your gunshots.” (p.44, The Economist)
This article will discuss freedom of speech and self-censorship in Mexico.

Freedom of speech is a basic human right according to the human rights charter of the United Nations, and Journalism is essentially about reporting neutrally the events taking place. However, in Mexico it is hard to practice that right, especially if you are covering drugs and drug cartels. Simply because you might end up dead. According to a Mexican reporter from the state of Zacatecas: “They’ll kill you, and I have children… you automatically know the things you can write about and the things you can’t say.” (cpj.org, O’Connor)

Mexican journalists protest against violence towards journalists in Mexico, on August 7, 2010 in Mexico City. (AFP/Getty Images)
Mexican journalists protest against violence towards journalists in Mexico, on August 7, 2010 in Mexico City. (AFP/Getty Images)

From the said above, it is easy to conclude that journalists in Mexico have to censor themselves and turn a blind eye to what is happening. This whole issue would not be a problem if the government had a strong say in the country, as the Colombia example. The reason why it is a lot safer now for journalists in Colombia is because of the government strict rules against drug cartels, but on the Mexican side the cartels feel they can go against the government and that gives them too much power. I believe that in the case of Mexico journalists should take care and not go to drug traffiking paths and not do direct investigations, but they should not stop at the same time, and that opinion arises because the country will not ever change if the people are not well informed.
Knowledge is the most important power that citizens of Mexico should equip themselves with, so they can make a change in the government that will protect them from such cartels.

The other problem in Mexico is radical governmental censorship that was triggered after two people took it to social media to share a false alarm about shootings and that caused chaos. So, in 2012 the government of the state of Veracruz introduced a new law that will put people in jail if they warn other citizens from shootings on social media. The government of Mexico have bought new software to monitor Mexican citizens on the internet. (Index Censorship, Arana)
I believe that this is a rigorous move from the Mexican government, because blogging and social media are the only ways for Mexicans to share the “controversial” news, since every other established news media outlet is scared from gang violence. So, this brings us back to either a change in the governmental policy or a complete change of government that has more power to control these sad happenings.

In general terms, I can only agree to what this Journalist has to say about self-censorship “I suppose they may say they are under pressure to restrain themselves from expressing their political views in their copy… I don’t want their views, I want them to report accurately.” (SCMP, Van Der Kamp)
Of course, it is understandable in the case of Mexico, but being in such a situation is part of the job, journalists running from Israeli bullets in Palestine is the same, and they should keep on reporting. Journalism is not about what we think, but about informing people exactly what is happening. Opinion forming is then up to the audience.


Almustafa Mahmoud Khalid 
#TeamSkies

Resources:

  • O’Connor, Mike. “Attacks on the Press: Mexican Self-Censorship Takes Root.” – Committee to Protect Journalists. N.p., 2010. Web. 30 Sept. 2015. <https://cpj.org/2013/02/attacks-on-the-press-mexican-self-censorship-takes.php>.
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit. 23.10.2010. The Americas Shooting the messenger. The Economist. London
  • Kamp, Jake Van Der. “Some Myths about Self-censorship and Threats to Press Freedom.” South China Morning Post. N.p., 03 May 2015. Web. 30 Sept. 2015. <http://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/article/1784303/some-myths-about-self-censorship-and-threats-press-freedom?page=all>.
  • Arana, Ana. “Mexico: Freedom of Expression Hobbled by Self-censorship – Index on Censorship | Index on Censorship.” Mexico: Freedom of Expression Hobbled by Self-censorship – Index on Censorship | Index on Censorship. Index Censorship, 27 Aug. 2013. Web. 30 Sept. 2015. <https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2013/08/mexico-freedom-expression-hobbled-self-censorship/>.
 

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