Archive for the ‘Latin America’ Category


Call to action to honor slain journalist Javier Vladez

“The great mistake is to live in Mexico and to be a journalist” Javier Valdez, in his 2016 book Narcoperiodismo

Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a working journalist.  

When reporter Javier Valdez was pulled from his car and executed in Culiacán, Sinaloa on May 15, he became the sixth member of the Mexican press to be killed in two months. The growing number is a disturbing reminder that everyone is targeted, no one is safe: print journalists, TV and radio reporters, photographers, editors, owners. In a decade-long wave of violence against journalists, parents have been gunned down in front of their children;  children in front of their parents. Murders take place in the dead of night or in broad daylight; in one of Mexico’s 32 states or in the middle of Mexico City.

The Committee to Protect Journalists estimates that 25 journalists have been killed since President Enrique Peña Nieto took office in December 2012. Although their murders took place independent of each other, the targeted shared a commitment to documenting aspects of drug trafficking and political corruption. In response, the Mexican government has been worse than silent: there have been almost no successful convictions of a journalist’s killer. The government’s inaction and failure to protect the press endangers not only reporters, but also freedom of expression and even Mexico’s democracy.

As members of the international press community, we have an opportunity to stand with Mexico’s journalists and to urge the Mexican government to act.

Our voice is our strength: join us, the Committee to Protect Journalists and Periodistas de a Pie in Mexico. On Thursday, June 15, a month after Javier’s murder, we will publish or broadcasting news articles, opinion pieces, editorials, political cartoons, blogs, photographs, tweets, Facebook posts, or any other form of journalism you favor.

The content is up to you – you can address his killing specifically, attacks on Mexico’s press in general, the impact of violence and impunity on freedom of expression, the government’s inaction, its failure to protect its journalists, the response of journalists worldwide. If all you’re able to do is a link to a published article or post that says it all for you, that too is welcome. We only ask that you tag your piece, post or Tweet with the hashtag #ourvoiceisourstrength and/or #nuestravozesnuestrafuerza as way of signaling to the Mexican government and to Mexico’s press that this is a collective effort.

Our voice is our strength. Join us in letting Mexican journalists know they are not alone, and the Mexican government see that the world is watching, and waiting for a solution.

#ourvoiceisourstrength, #nuestravozesnuestrafuerza

Instructions:

  1. Plan to publish or air a piece related to violence against journalists in Mexico on Thursday, June 15 in commemoration of Javier Valdez’s assassination on May 15
  2. Associate the hashtag #ourvoiceisourstrength and/or #nuestravozesnuestrafuerza with your piece so that it will be recognized as part of a collective effort
  3. Pass this message on to your international journalist contacts, colleagues and friends! Do it quickly, so people have time to respond and prepare something for June 15.
  4. If you think of it, let us know that you will publish or air something on June 15 so we have a sense of the community’s response.
  5. Everyone should craft their own approach/pitch to their jefes so that their institutions are on board — if such permission is needed.

#ourvoiceisourstrength, #nuestravozesnuestrafuerza

Sincerely,

  • Kate Doyle, Senior Analyst, National Security Archive
  • Tim Weiner, author and journalist
  • Susan Ferriss, Senior Writer, Center for Public Integrity
  • Ricardo Sandoval-Palos, Managing Editor, 100Reporters
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Breaking the Silence, Empowering Female Journalists Worldwide

“There are two groups of people that are more vulnerable during riots and marches: female police officers and female journalists.”

Last month I was in Washington D.C. getting various forms of training. During a seminar those words were directed to me from the in-house expert. The goal was to train us, the journalists, to be safe during civil unrest, marches and riots, but what left me shocked was that the expert gave me the “it is what it is” attitude. It happens. Women are more susceptible to attacks than others in these circumstances. But what are we doing to shift that attitude and ensure the safety of not just female journalists, but all journalists?

If you are a journalist going abroad on an assignment, it is so important to be prepared and proactive in any situation that may present itself. As a woman, the rules of engagement change and the reality is you can be left completely vulnerable.

There are dangers we face that most likely our male counterparts may not experience. Last year, the Committee to Protect Journalists held a panel discussion with journalists on their experiences reporting on the front lines, dealing with sexualized violence, and countering gender-related threats and restrictions.

Returning from my time in the Middle East in 2014 and earlier this year interviewing refugees, there were some unfortunate obstacles I faced that left me to reassess my safety in my work.

But I’m not alone.

Just last week, I read about award-winning Colombian journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima and her struggle to gain justice after 17 years where she was abducted, tortured and raped following her report on violence at a maximum-security prison involving state officials and paramilitary groups. The painful and prolonged court system in Colombia hasn’t stopped Bedoya to fight tirelessly against and she even started a campaign in 2009, “now is not the time to remain silent”. She stands up for women and has gained strength in her fight against injustice in her case and for women in similar circumstances.

There is also Shakeela Ibrahimkhel of Afghanistan, who had to end her 10 year career at one of the country’s leading news channels to seek asylum in Germany. The continued violence, threats and harassment from the Taliban has led some 100 Afghan women to seek refuge outside of the country.

The threats don’t stop there. Just days ago the Nepal Press Freedom reported an incident of a death threat towards Sushma Paudel after  a status on Facebook. The threat against Poudel from a Canadian resident was over a story the journalist had filed.

These acts of violence, the lack of safety and the overall status of female journalists globally is alarming. Doing a simple Google search for “threats against female journalists” right now and in .51 seconds, there are about 2,820,000 results!

Although my experiences abroad do not compare to the harrowing female correspondents, freelancers and even fixers abroad, I do believe what is happening to women in our line of work should raise a red flag.

In order to understand, empower and give a voice the women around the world doing amazing work, the Society of Professional Journalists’ International Community will feature female journalists starting this month as part of a #PressFreedomMatters movement giving these women a platform to express their narrative.

Come back every Wednesday and read the stories these women have to share, the obstacles they’ve faced and how they are overcoming them.

 

If you know someone that should be featured in the weekly series, please fill out this form

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Migrants: Where from, where to and local impact

Originally posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World

If you ever wondered why there is a better selection of tortillas in your local store or why getting good garam masala is suddenly much easier, the Pew Research Group has a quick way to look at immigration and emigration.

The Pew Group has a GREAT interactive graphic to look at immigrant and emigrant movements during the past 25 years at Origins and Destinations of the World’s Migrants, from 1990-2015

Along with an interactive map, the Pew Group added a table so you can see with real numbers migration movement.

I’ll let the Pew Group explain what its wonderful graphic depicts:

The figures in this interactive feature refer to the total number (or cumulative “stocks”) of migrants living around the world as of 1990, 2000, 2010 or 2015 rather than to the annual rate of migration (or current “flows”) in a given year. Since migrants have both an origin and a destination, international migrants can be viewed from two directions – as an emigrant (leaving an origin country) or as an immigrant (entering a destination country).

According to the United Nations Population Division, an international migrant is someone who has been living for one year or longer in a country other than the one in which he or she was born. This means that many foreign workers and international students are counted as migrants. Additionally, the UN considers refugees and, in some cases, their descendants (such as Palestinians born in refugee camps outside of the Palestinian territories) to be international migrants. For the purposes of this interactive feature, estimates of the number of unauthorized immigrants living in various countries also are included in the total counts. On the other hand, tourists, foreign-aid workers, temporary workers employed abroad for less than a year and overseas military personnel typically are not counted as migrants.

And for those wondering, the total number of migrants living in the United States in 2015 came from:

  1. Mexico – 12 million
  2. China – 2.1 million
  3. India – 1.9 million
  4. Philippines – 1.7 million
  5. Puerto Rico – 1.7 million
  6. Viet Nam – 1.3 million
  7. El Salvador – 1.2 million
  8. Cuba – 1.1 million
  9. South Korea – 1.1 million
  10. Dominican Republic – 940,000
  11. Guatemala – 880,000

Remember, this is the TOTAL number of people from these countries living in the United States, NOT the number arriving in 2015. And I would personally put the migration from Puerto Rico to the U.S. mainland as internal migration rather than international. (That is why I have a Top 11, rather than Top 10). Seems the United Nations has its own way of looking at these things.

And in case you are wondering, in 2015 there were 180,000 people from Iraqi living in the United States and 70,000 from Syria, both up from 40,000 each in 1990.

Local reporters can follow-up on this information for a local angle by using material from the U.S. Census Bureau.

For example, I know from the American FactFinder, there are a lot of Ethiopian restaurants in Fairfax County, Virginia (population 1.1 million) because Ethiopian immigrants are the largest African group in Fairfax – 6,000 out of 31,000 African native-born residents.

You can get good papusas because Salvadorans make up the largest single group of Latin American residents — 32,000 out of 102,000 from Latin America.

We all know Annandale, Va., is known as Little Seoul. Well, the Census numbers bear that out, of the 170,000 people born in Asia in Fairfax County, 30,000 are from Korea. But what should be evident to anyone paying attention, the Indian and Vietnamese presence is also big. Fairfax has 29,000 people who were born in Indian and 23,000 born in Vietnam.

Not to leave out Europe, but let’s face it, the numbers are weak compared to the rest of the world. Fairfax has 25,000 people born in Europe. The single largest group are the Germans with 3,600.

Bottom line, if you are looking for a foreign story, start in your own neighborhood.

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CPJ Study of Criminal Defamation Laws in the Americas

The Committee to Protect Journalists along with the Thomson Reuters Foundation released a study that all but one country in the Americas have criminal defamation laws that can be used against journalists to suppress freedom of expression.

All but one country in Americas criminalize defamation

Laws that can be used against journalists include defamation, libel, calumny, or making false charges, and “desacato” offenses that refer to insulting or offending the state or state officials.

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War Against Journalists Continues in Mexico

The latest victim in attacks against journalists in Mexico is Anabel Flores Salazar, a reporter in Veracruz.

Mexican authorities say they are searching for her after reports she was dragged from her home by armed men and hasn’t been seen since.

Salazar was taken Monday morning from her home near the city of Orizaba, where she worked for several newspapers.

Unfortunately, kidnapping and killing journalists is not uncommon in Mexico. Since 2010 15 journalists have been killed in Veracruz alone.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 24 journalists have been killed in Mexico because of their jobs since 2010. A vast majority — 77 percent — of the reporters killed covered the crime beat, just like Salazar.

Threats against journalists come not only from the gangs but also corrupt public officials. The BBC reports there are strained relations between the Veracruz governor and the media. The governor has gone as far as warning journalists to “behave” or bad things might happen to them.

Understandably journalists in the area saw the comment as a veiled threat.

 

Veracruz prosecutors say they will investigate everything about Salazar to see why she was kidnapped.

The office said a few years ago she was seen with a leader of the local branch of the Zetas drug cartel.

And here in lies the problem.

For reporters to do their job, they have to develop sources across the board. If a cartel leader doesn’t like a story, threats are made and carried out against journalists. Likewise, if a local political figure is identified as being in the hip pocket of a cartel, the journalist receives threats from or is intimidated by the local government.

And then, there are a few bad apples in the journalism profession. Some have used their position as reporter or commentator to extort money from people in exchange for their silence on the air or in print. And because of the few unethical journalists, it becomes easier for governments and gangs to frame honest journalists, because the public is already to accept corruption within the media exists, just as it exists in the rest of society.

And to be clear, the situation described above is not unique to Mexico. Journalists throughout the Western Hemisphere face similar threats from gangs and rogue government officials.

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Update on Murder of Paraguayan Journalist

By Robert Buckman

One of the two suspected triggermen in the 2014 murder of Paraguayan investigative journalist Pablo Medina was arrested in Brazil on Jan. 10, according to the Asunción newspaper ABC Color, for which Medina worked.

Flavio Acosta, 30, was arrested in Pato Brancio in the Brazilian state of Paraná, which borders eastern Paraguay, when his wife reported him to local authorities for domestic abuse and told them he was wanted in Paraguay for Medina’s killing. Acosta is the nephew of the alleged intellectual author of Medina’s killing, Vilmar ”Neneco” Acosta, former mayor of the town of Ypejhú, near where Medina was gunned down by two men on a motorcycle on Oct. 16, 2014.

Vilmar Acosta was arrested in Brazil in March and extradited to Paraguay in November.
Flavio Acosta is believed to be one of the gunmen on the motorcycle. The second is believed to be Wilson Acosta, brother of Vilmar and uncle of Flavio Acosta. Wilson Acosta is still at large.

Vilmar Acosta was the target of some of Medina’s investigative reporting on drug trafficking and gunrunning in the lawless “tri-border” region where Paraguay borders Brazil and Argentina. Medina was 53.

Also killed in the attack was Antonia Almada, 19, Medina’s volunteer assistant. Almada’s sister, Juana Ruth Almada, survived the attack and identified the gunmen. Vilmar Acosta’s chauffer was arrested and also implicated him.

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Threats to Mexican Media Continue Unabated

Washington Post reporter Dana Priest has an excellent piece on the threats Mexican journalists face everyday: Censor or die: The death of Mexican news in the age of drug cartels

For anyone who has paid attention to what is going on in Mexico, this is not news, but confirmation that the war against the cartels is not going so well in Mexico.

The Mexican media was just getting out from under the thumb of the oddly named Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI)  that ran Mexico for most of its 100+ years. A breakdown in the control PRI had meant journalists could start actually being journalists instead of stenographers for the government.

Then the cartels started gaining strength — with the help of corrupt national and local officials.

Suddenly the threats to free and independent journalism was no longer the loss of a job, but death.

As Priest notes:

Submitting to cartel demands is the only way to survive, said Hildebrando “Brando” Deandar Ayala, 39, editor in chief of El Mañana, one of the oldest and largest newspapers in the region with a print circulation of 30,000. “You do it or you die, and nobody wants to die,” he said. “Auto censura — self-censorship — that’s our shield.”

Just some items from the past 10 years:

In Mexico, as in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, the issue is not government censorship but death threats from criminal cartels. The inability of the governments to address the issue speaks volumes about the corruption and weak legal systems in these countries.

To be clear though, it does not mean the governments have a policy of media repression. Too many observers of Latin America see any attacks on journalists — or civic society activists — as being ordered by the local or national government. Unfortunately the threats are essentially from the “private sector” — the cartels. The law enforcement systems in these countries are so weak that the threats against journalists — and civic society activists — either are not investigated or such a weak case is built against the murderers that they go free.

This impunity cartels enjoy can only be stopped if the governments are provided enough support and help to fight back. That is why cutting support to programs that seek to build stronger legal systems is not the way to go.

This item first appeared in Journalism, Journalists and The World.

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War against Mexican journalism continues

From IFEX:

On 25 November, Maite Azuela, a columnist for El Universal, received a death threat in mail delivered to her home in Mexico City’s Federal District.

Azuela arrived home at about 5 p.m. and found a yellow envelope addressed to her. The envelope had no return address, but had a stamp dated 9 November and stamp from a post office in Obrero Mundial street from 11 November. Inside the envelope she found a copy of her El Universal staff profile picture with insults and death threats written on it.

Read full story: Mexican newspaper columnist receives graphic death threat in the mail

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Brazil to extradite suspect in journalist’s killing

(Many thanks to Robert Buckman for this update.)

Investigative reporter Pablo Medina

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has notified Paraguay, after eight months, that she has signed the papers to extradite Vilmar “Neneco” Acosta, the alleged intellectual author of the murder of investigative reporter Pablo Medina 13 months ago, according to the Asunción daily ABC Color.

Acosta is to be transferred back to Paraguay on Monday.

Vilmar “Neneco” Acosta

Medina was an investigative reporter for ABC Color. He and his 19-year-old female intern, Antonio Almada, were gunned down in eastern Paraguay on Oct. 16, 2014, by two men on a motorcycle.

Acosta was the mayor of the town of Ypejhú and had been the target of Medina’s investigations into narcotrafficking in the region. Acosta absconded to Brazil after Medina’s murder and was arrested in March. His former chauffeur was arrested in Paraguay and implicated Acosta and the two gunmen.

The two suspected triggermen, one of them Acosta’s brother, remain at large.

See an earlier report on this case: Open season on journalists in Paraguay

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Honduran Money Laundering Arrests Affect Major News Outlets

The US government arrested Honduran Yanki Rosenthal when he landed in Miami October 6 on charges of money laundering. The next day indictments were handed down for other members of his family.

While many in the world media are focusing on Yanki’s ownership of a major Honduran soccer team and the family’s ownership of the bank Grupo Continental, the reach of the Rosenthal family is much more extensive.

For journalists, the indictments hit close to home.

The Rosenthals own one of the major newspapers — El Tiempo — and a national TV outlet — Canal 11.

How the Honduran press handled the arrest and indictments clearly showed the biases

El Tiempo lead with:

The Continental Group issued a statement rejecting the accusations made Wednesday the Treasury Department of the United States, where several companies linked to the group of the crime of money laundering. Facing accusations Continental Group denies allegations of money laundering involving companies in the Continental Group.

Competitor El Heraldo, however, went with:

The US attorney in Manhattan announced charges Wednesday against four Hondurans by “laundering of proceeds of drug trafficking and bribery crimes through accounts in the United States.

Rolando Jaime Rosenthal Oliva, Yani Benjamin Rosenthal Hidalgo, Yankel Rosenthal and Andrew Acosta Garcia Coello “were charged in connection with a conspiracy carried out over several years to launder profits from drug crimes,” said the office of the Southern District of New York.

The newspapers — and television news outlets — have never been shy about showing off the political leanings of the owners. It will now be interesting to see how the news media handle the trials of one of the five big families of Honduras.

What will be important for foreign journalists to pay attention to will not be the cat fight that is sure to be played out in the front pages, but rather if (when) the number of life-threatening threats against journalists covering this case increases.

Journalists in Honduras have faced numerous threats — not so much from the government as from the narcos. Threats will most likely come against anyone digging deeply into this story.

THIS IS BIG! In the past, the US and Honduran governments have acted against drug kingpins and their holdings. This is the first time there is a major move against such a prominent family and such large corporate holdings in the country. Among those indicted are a former president of the country and a presidential candidate for the Liberal Party, the mainstream opposition party to the ruling National Party.

Grupo Continental is one of the largest banks in Honduras. Its holding extend deeply into Honduran society, including — as noted — the news media.

Under Honduran law, the property and goods of indicted individuals is put under the control of the Administrative Office of Seized Goods (OABI). When a major narco was arrested, OABI took over control of his private zoo, which was occasionally opened to the public. OABI brought in animal experts to evaluate and run the zoo and kept it open to the public. (The narco zoo was much larger than the Tegucigalpa Zoo, but the animals were in much worse shape.)

Seized gym equipment was donated to outreach centers to help keep young people active in safe (non-gang related) activities. Likewise, OABI arranged for a boat, including fuel and maintenance for the boat, so a school in Cayos Cochinos could make sure the kids got an education. (The islands are inhabited by some of the poorest people in Honduras.)

The director of OABI fought corrupt bosses and politicians before he rose to the top job. Once he took command of the organization, he made sure everything was handled by the book. (In other words, no more seized cars for a political leader, just because he wants one.)

The director understands and operates OABI under a transparent and open system. He also understands that fighting back against intimidation is important part of beating corruption. His heart and mind are in the right place to allow El Tiempo and Channel 11 operate as fair and independent news outlets, if they are seized under the law.

He might even appoint a director of the newspaper and TV channel who will encourage the journalists in those groups to step out from the partisan restrictions of the current owners. And maybe even help arrange for some additional training.

And if anyone is looking for a success story about the fight against corruption, a profile of OABI and its director is a good place to start.

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