Friday, May 25, 2012

Journalism Dead in Mexico

Though U.S. media experiences its own share of news cover-ups and fact muddling, the freedom of speech here looms brightly over the state of news reporting of our neighbors below the border. On May 13, the family-run newspaper El Mañana of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico officially declared that it would cease to report any crime activity regarding the violent war that has exploded between the Sinaloa Cartel and the Zeta Cartel in their region. This decision is the result of a gunman attack on the newspaper headquarters on May 11. An exploding device was detonated beside the building and the parking lot and building exterior was shot at. Though the damage was minimal, El Mañana interpreted the attack as a looming threat from the Sinaloa cartel. The gang was allegedly demanding the newspaper to cover its takeover of Zeta territory, which would make their group appear powerful and the Zetas seem weak. Following these demands would have been dangerous, as the Zetas could not have approved of such demeaning exposure and would have likely attacked El Mañana ‘s staff itself. Many Mexican papers have ceased to publish news about organized crime groups from their areas, but El Mañana is the first to stop publishing any such stories and to declare it publicly.

The Zeta cartel fiercely monitors the newspapers that publish stories about them. Though in many repressive countries, citizen journalism and social media can come to replace print media and provide news to citizens and outsiders, the Zeta cartel squishes this possibility as well. On September 24 of last year, María Elizabeth Macías Castro, a reporter for a local paper called Primera Hora, was murdered in Nuevo Laredo. The Zeta cartel uncovered the organized crime news she posted on her Twitter account and the website Nuevo Laredo en vivo and chose to take her out. Castro posted under the pseudonym “La NenaDLaredo”, but through unknown means the Zetas managed to learn her true identity. They left a note near the gory crime scene that read: "Ok. Nuevo Laredo Live and social media, I am the Girl from Laredo and I am here because of my reports and yours... ZZZZ." The ‘Z’s are the signature of the Zeta cartel.

When the seemingly anonymous world of the social media fails to protect reporter identity, where can a country as repressed by organized crime as Mexico turn? It cannot rely on its journalists, whose lives are so threatened they are forced to stop reporting news that matter. It cannot rely on citizen or witness journalism, because its people are powerless against the cartel takeover. It appears that for the time being Mexican journalism is truly dead. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for reminding us that optimism about both traditional journalism and digital journalism is challenged in the current situation in Mexico, where both conventional newspaper reporting and live microblogging on Twitter can lead to retaliation by the cartels. Of course, the obvious question is if there is anything that can halt this vicious cycle, where a lack of reporting in the public interest further erodes civil society and that erosion stymies reporters even further.