Thursday, November 5, 2009

Another Dead Reporter

Writing in response to another murdered journalist in Durango, Darío Ramírez, the director of Article 19 for Mexico and Central America, sees a bleak outlook for Mexico's reporters:
We continue counting victims. We continue receiving a message of inadequacy from the authorities tasked securing and administering justice. We continue seeing how insecurity feeds and incites future acts of violence. We continue worrying about simulating a democratic Mexico that doesn't exist. Because in every democracy, the exercise of a free press in a safe setting is an indispensable element.

"Kill the messenger" has a damaging effect on all of society. The violence toward our media outlets is generating a significant degree of self-censorship. This cannot be a protective measure. Journalists are no longer investigating, corroborating, questioning and arguing over informative pieces because no article is worth a life. As long as this phenomenon continue rooting itself, society moves toward the abyss of ignorance and we distance ourselves from neutral, correct, and timely information that fosters reflection about our nation, governors, public policies and political parties, among many other issues.

The cold-blooded murder of Bladimir Antuna is a new opportunity to see the evident process of decomposition of the system in which we live. It shows us something beyond indifference from the federal and local authorities. It shows us that censorship through murder is being established as a constant factor in the country.

How can we prevent cases like those of Bladimir Antuna (Durango, November 2009), Norberto Miranda Madrid (Chihuahua, September 2009), Martín Javier Miranda Avilés (Michoacán, July 2009), Juan Daniel Martínez Gil (Guerrero, July 2009), Carlos Ortega Melo Samper (Durango, May 2009), Eliseo Barrón Hernández (Durango, May 2009), Jean Paul Ibarra Ramírez (Guerrero, February 2009), Luis Daniel Méndez Hernández (Veracruz, February 2009), Juan Carlos Hernández Mundo (Guerrero, February 2009)? Is the plan to sit down to read newspapers chockfull of official information in which we can rely on only what it is advantageous for the authorities to tell us? Is it that as a society we have closed ourselves off from our thirst for information to unmask corruption and poor government, to have our eyes and ears in those corners of public life that interest us? Are we going to renounce the path of being able to decide, denounce, and make decisions? As a society, we must protect the messenger.
One thing I think it may be worth mentioning is that there is a salutary effect for many politicians in not enacting more robust protections of journalists, at least in the short term. (In the long run, of course, politicians would be as threatened by anyone by a breakdown in a free press and the consequent weakening of a free society.) Tenacious journalists scare politicians, especially those with some skeletons, while journalists that are cowed by drug-dealers are also not as likely to be very dogged in chasing political wrongdoing. I'm not saying that individual politicians are consciously choosing to expose reporters to mortal danger, but trying to get a legislative body to act against its immediate interest is a tricky matter, and one that would require a greater grass-roots outcry.


jd said...

FYI Article 19 is a large press freedom org based in England; Ramirez is the CentAm/Mexico regional head.

There's probably some truth to what you say, but there's probably also an element of not wanting to admit the truth - that arresting the perps and protecting others might not be possible. Forget Iraq and Somalia - better comparisons for journalist danger are the Philippines and Colombia up until a few years ago, each like Mexico nominally a democracy but one where the state lacked a monopoly of force in some areas. Per capita, Guatemala and Honduras have had similar issues. Russia has had similar numbers of killings but is different insofar as it's much closer to a straight up gangster-state. Obviously, self-censorship and repression can reach levels where violence is no longer necessary (as in many dictatorships) but in a democracy like Mexico these numbers are a bad sign. Actually, to me, forget the drug war murders obsession, the dead reporters are a much more damning symbol of Mexico's security/impunity problem.

pc said...

Thanks for the Article 19 info, don't know why I made that assumption. Correction forthcoming. I agree that killing reporters is a really serious indictment of the state in the way that 6000 murders (in a country of 100 million plus) isn't necessarily. I also think it is really dangerous for Mexico, I dont mean to suggest otherwise. Unfortunately, since it's not really a new problem (I mean, it didn't just start last year) and Mexico's politicians could have made a much greater effort to condemn journalistic intimidation years ago, it seems like something that's going to have a hard time making it to the front of the political agenda without a push. Something like the National Security Pact publicity drive toward the end of last year could probably do it, but, oddly, the media hasn't really gotten behind the issue the way it has with other issues.