Earlier this year, after award-winning journalist Javier Valdez was gunned down in the streets of Culiacán, The Washington Post ran an editorial titled “In Mexico, journalism is literally being killed off.” The Post’s editorial board lamented “the drug-fueled violence that has claimed tens of thousands of Mexican lives over the past decade,” and implored Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to do more to protect reporters.
Covering the country’s drug trade remains a dangerous job, but in an important piece published this morning by CJR, Seth Harp writes that the state itself has become a threat for journalists. “Today,” Harp writes, “a journalist is much more likely to be killed for criticizing the governor’s policies or exposing a mayor’s mismanagement than for writing about cartel activities.”
Reporting from the state of Veracruz, Harp says the cartel-directed violence against journalists has led some to stop reporting on the drug trade, but that “self-censorship regarding the drug war hasn’t improved safety conditions in Veracruz because, beginning about six years ago, state officials started copying the tactics of cartel hit men.”
Harp’s piece includes a shocking litany of Mexican journalists killed after producing critical reporting on government figures. Rubén Espinoza, Moises Sanchez, Ricardo Monlui, Cándido Ríos Vásquez, all dead.
Reporters Without Borders ranks Mexico 147th on its Press Freedom Index, ahead of only Cuba in the Western hemisphere. In terms of physical threats, the country sits with Syria and Iraq as the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist. While the narrative about that danger often focuses on cartel violence, Harp’s reporting exposes a culture of impunity where blame lays heavily at the feet of the state.
Below, more on the dangers of reporting in America’s southern neighbor.
- Government surveillance: In June, The New York Times revealed that the Mexican government was using Israeli spyware to monitor journalists, activists, and human rights lawyers.
- Killed while under government protection: Cándido Ríos Vázquez was enrolled in a government protection program for journalists when he was killed last month, reports the Associated Press.
- Flaws in the system: Reporters Without Borders published a devastating report focusing on the state of Veracruz, and the failures of the government to protect journalists there.
- “It’s easy to kill a journalist”: Earlier this year, The New York Times’s Azam Ahmed wrote an A1 investigation into the murders of Mexican journalists.
Other notable stories
- The Associated Press’s Bill Barrow reports that The Republican Governors Association has “quietly launched an online publication that looks like a media outlet and is branded as such on social media.” The outlet carried no acknowledgement that it was essentially a propaganda rag until contacted by the AP.
- Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Mike Faulk was violently detained and arrested by city police while covering protests over the not-guilty verdict in the case of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley, who was accused of murdering Anthony Lamar Smith.
- The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan has the best analysis I’ve seen of the Jemele Hill controversy. “It is tragically inappropriate for media behemoths to tout the diversity of their workforce and then hush what those diverse voices want to say on the most important matters of the day,” Sullivan writes. “That’s especially a problem when those staffers are encouraged to opine and engage on social media.”
- NiemanLab has an interesting report on how the Arab world gets its news. Two-thirds of respondents to a recent survey said they get at least some news from social media every day.
- New York Times media reporter Sydney Ember writes about the difficulty of covering the industry in which she works.
- Last night, Jimmy Kimmel used his monologue to make an emotional plea opposing the Graham-Cassidy health care bill currently under consideration in the Senate.