By Pueng Vongs | January 30th, 2010
By Leo E. Laurence, J.D.; Member: SPJ National Diversity Committee and Latino Journalists of California; editor: San Diego News Service. E-mail: email@example.com
San Diego – The closest I even came to getting killed in decades as a working journalist was when I was covered a mafia “hit” in L.A., and the probability of actually getting shot was really nil as local detectives provided cover for me.
But if you are a daring journalist in Mexico and you print, broadcast or go online and tell the real story of the drug cartels, the probability of getting killed is actually quite high.
In the United States, with declining revenues and print circulation, some in the media worry that we are no longer relevant to people’s lives. Indeed, a survey by the respected Pew Research Center showed that 63 percent of the respondents said news articles were often inaccurate, and only 29 percent reported that the media generally “get the facts right.”
In Mexico, the media remains extremely relevant. But if reporters anger the wrong people, it could cost them their lives.
José Luis Romero was a 40-year-old radio reporter who broadcast from the state of Sinaloa where lots of the illicit drugs are produced. A few weeks ago, Romero was abducted from a restaurant at gunpoint. His body was found later along a deserted highway.
Valentín Valdés Espinosa, 29 — another reporter who covered the drug cartels – was kidnapped, tortured and killed in the Mexican state of Coahuila just a few weeks ago. A message was attached to the body that read, “This is going to happen to those who don’t understand. This message is for everyone.”
Mexico’s Human Rights Commission estimates that 59 journalsits have been murdered since 2000. Last year, 11 were assassinated.
These executions are done very publicly to scare off the media. Mexican officials believe the drug cartels are responsible for the murder of José Alberto Velázquez López, owner of the Mexican newspaper, “Expresiones de Tulum,” after leaving a Christmas party.
The major newspaper in the Mexican state of Coahuila, “Zócalo de Saltillo,” recently decided to stop covering stories of drug violance totally rather than risk the lives of its reporters.
Mexican journalists are refusing to run or hide. Some are actually encouraged that their stories are rattling the drug bosses.
In this country, some reporters are called courageous for reporting that a politican plays poker or has an affair with a lobbyist. That’s not courage. It’s timid. Going to work every day and covering the truth, even when it might get you killed . . . now that’s courage!
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