[VIDEO] Dying for a Story: How Impunity & Violence against Mexican Journalists are Weakening the Country

Watch the video from yesterday’s event

Mexico has faced significant threats and violence from organized crime over the last decade. The human toll and tragedy of this violence is directly impacting journalists as well, leading to self-censorship, under-reporting of organized crime, and the corruption and state complicity that comes with it. Journalists have been killed, injured, and threatened as they seek to investigate and report on what is happening, and dozens of media outlets have been forced to close in the last few years. According to Article 19, eleven journalists were killed in 2016 and six so far in 2017 including Javier Valdéz, an internationally recognized journalist from Sinaloa’s RíoDoce, on May 15th.

In 2012, the United States supported the legislative framework that established Mexico’s National Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists. Through USAID, the United States has continued to support the Protection Mechanism and other programs to benefit journalists and defenders in Mexico. Nevertheless, the recent cases demonstrate that these mechanisms have not yet been effective. The Mexican government has expressed concern about the problem and promised justice, but investigations and prosecutions of those responsible have been very few. In the process, freedom of information, freedom of the press, the rule of law, and democratic governance have been weakened.

The Wilson Center and WOLA convened a discussion with experts and courageous Mexican journalists to hear about their work and the difficulties and risks they and their colleagues face. They were joined by Ana Cristina Ruelas, the Director of Article 19’s office for Mexico and Central America, Azam Ahmed, the New York Times’ Bureau Chief for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, and Jennifer Clement, the President of PEN International, who presented an overview of attacks and aggressions against journalists in Mexico and the Mexican government’s response to this concerning situation.

La Impunidad Sigue: Violence against Journalists in Mexico

5/17/2017 The Expert Take, Mexico Institute

expert I (2)By Eric L. Olson and Gina Hinojosa

In yet another disturbing attack against freedom of expression in Mexico, one of the country’s most celebrated reporters, Javier Valdez Cárdenas, was shot dead this week in his hometown of Culiacán, Sinaloa. The fifth journalist to be murdered in Mexico this year, Valdez was pulled from his car and shot multiple times by an unidentified assailant around noon on May 15, according to national newspaper La Jornada, leaving the country to grieve the loss, again, of courageous journalist and rights defenders.

A talented and undeniably passionate reporter, Valdez won numerous international awards for his work. In 2011, the publication he co-founded, RioDoce, earned the prestigious Maria Moors Cabot Prize from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. In the same year, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) awarded Valdez the 2011 International Press Freedom Award for his fearless coverage of drug trafficking, organized crime, and corruption. “In a country where widespread self-censorship is the consequence of violence by drug syndicates and criminal gangs, Valdez still covers sensitive issues,” wrote CPJ in its announcement of the award.

The words Valdez delivered upon receiving the CPJ award in New York are heart-wrenching. They underscore the horrors suffered by Mexicans living in areas ravaged by the country’s ongoing struggle against organized crime and the persistent challenges faced by journalists brave enough to report from the front lines of this struggle:

“Where I work, Culiacán, in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico, it is dangerous to be alive, and to do journalism is to walk on an invisible line drawn by the bad guys–who are in drug trafficking and in the government–in a field strewn with explosives. This is what most of the country is living through. One must protect oneself from everything and everyone, and there do not seem to be options or salvation, and often there is no one to turn to.”

While well aware of the risks, Valdez dedicated his life to addressing these pressing issues. In 2003, he co-founded the Sinaloa-based crime and corruption-focused publication RioDoce. At the time of the publication’s founding, the state government was believed to control most of Sinaloa’s media, and Valdez saw the need to provide more honest coverage of organized crime’s toll on Mexican society and governance.

In 2011, Valdez spoke at the Wilson Center about his work at a Mexico Institute event in the midst of Mexico’s rising homicide rates, discussing the risks faced by journalists reporting on organized crime. Widely considered the height of Mexico’s drug war, 2011 was the country’s most violent year on record, with nearly 23,000 homicides documented nationwide by the Mexican National Security System (SNSP). When asked by the Mexico Institute’s Eric L. Olson about why he continued reporting on such dangerous topics in such a hostile context, Valdez said, “The other option is to stay quiet and to turn a blind eye…I believe everyone must assume the responsibility given to them.”

The broader picture

Through his activism and dedicated reporting, Valdez called attention to Mexico’s incessant struggle to put an end to violence against journalists. Press freedom watchdog Reporters without Borders (RSF) consistently ranks Mexico the most dangerous country in the Western Hemisphere for the media, and in its 2017 World Press Freedom Index, RSF declared Mexico the third deadliest country in the world for the press, behind only Syria and Afghanistan. According to international human rights organization Article 19, 105 journalists have been murdered in Mexico since 2000, and in 2016 alone, the organization documented 426 total acts of aggression against the press, including 11 homicides. The most common types of attacks recorded by Article 19 last year included physical assault, intimidation, and threats.

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Report says Mexico state officials ignored massacre

10/9/16 The Washington Post

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 Mexican drug gang bosses furious at suspected turncoats sent commandos aided by local police to seize dozens — perhaps hundreds — of people, murder them and dispose of their bodies in a town near the Texas border, yet state and federal officials ignored the massacre for years, according to a government-backed report released Sunday.

The long delay in the investigation makes it impossible to determine just how many people were killed in the town of Allende in 2011, according to the report sponsored by the federal Executive Commission for Attention to Victims. The Coahuila state file lists 42 missing people related to the case. But a Zeta drug gang member told a U.S. court in 2013 that 300 died, though it was not clear if all the deaths occurred in the same incident.

A witness testified that many of the bodies of victims were incinerated to the point of making identification of remains almost impossible. The report written by Sergio Aguayo, a human rights activist and academic at the elite College of Mexico, is based on testimony gathered by Mexican prosecutors, government and independent human rights organizations, as well as U.S. records.

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How Mexico Saves Its Citizens From U.S. Executions

09/22/16 The Atlantic

When the body of 25-year old Lesley Hope Plott was found lying in a ditch in Russellville, Alabama, in February of 2013, police had little trouble zeroing in on a suspect: hours earlier, a nearby church’s security camera had recorded her being beaten and stabbed by her estranged husband, Angel Campos Nava.

Born in Mexico, Nava, 36, had come to the United States years earlier. He had already been convicted of assaulting Plott on two earlier occasions. A murder conviction could result in the death penalty.

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Abduction of Chapo’s Son May Signal War Between Mexico Cartels

08/16/16 InSight Crime

chapoA group of men that included a son of El Chapo Guzmán were abducted at gunpoint from an upscale restaurant in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, in what appears to be a high-level attack in the war between two of the country’s most powerful drug cartels.

According to the Attorney General’s Office in the state of Jalisco, where Puerto Vallarta is located, six menwere kidnapped on the evening of August 15 from a local gourmet restaurant called La Leche. However, the exact number of victims remains unclear; the same office previously said between 10 and 12 had been kidnapped and some local media outlets were reporting 16 victims.

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Mexico’s ‘Lord Audi’ sets social media on fire

08/01/2016 Fusion

biciMexicans are once again using the power of social media to shame the elite class who hide behind privilege…[and]… think they’re above the law.

The latest incident involves a young man in Mexico City who was driving an Audi in the bicycle lane, apparently to avoid traffic, and started tailgating a cyclist who wouldn’t let him pass.

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Mexico Institute Materials on Anti-Corruption Efforts

Security and the Rule of LawOn Monday, as President Enrique Peña Nieto signed into law a new anti-corruption system, he apologized for a damaging conflict of interest scandal in 2014 surrounding his wife’s purchase of a $7m luxury home from a government contractor, an episode that hurt the Mexican people’s faith in the presidency and the government. “For this reason, with all humility I ask your forgiveness,” he said. “I reiterate my sincere and profound apology for the offense and indignation I have caused you.”

In light of the ratification of the anti-corruption reform, I would like to share with you our recent work on anti-corruption efforts in Mexico.

Sincerely,

Duncan Wood
Director, Mexico Institute

Anti-Corruption

Mexico Wins: Anti-Corruption Reform Approved

Fighting Corruption in Mexico

Mexico Today: Analyzing the Country’s Reforms

Mexico’s Reforms and the Prospects for Growth

Mexican Civil Society’s Battle against Corruption: #Ley3de3

Mexico: The Fight Against Corruption

How to Make Mexico More Competitive: More Corporate Ethics & State Efficiency, Less Corruption

Mexico’s Battle Against Corruption

Mexico Corruption Perception Index 2015

Corruption, A Central Issue in the Campaigns

The Mexican State and Anti-Corruption Efforts

Additionally, check out our recent work on rule of law in Mexico.

The Problem of Power: Mexico Requires a New System of Government

Book Launch | The Problem of Power: Mexico Requires a New System of Government

Mexico and the United States: Combating Illicit Finance Together

Mexico Security Review 2016: Assessing the Outlook for the Rule of Law

A Mexican Utopia: Book Launch & Discussion of the Rule of Law in Mexico

A Mexican Utopia: The Rule of Law is Possible

A Way to Restore Mexico’s Trust Deficit

Four Rule of Law Policies to Make Mexico Grow

The Mexican State and Transparency

The State of Citizen Security in Mexico: 2014 in Review and the Year Ahead