Narcotraffickers attack Televisa, Mexico's top TV network
Freedom of press is under siege in Mexico. Calls grow for a new law to make such attacks on the media a federal crime.
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Worldwide, 2008 was a safer year for traditional journalists (but tougher for online media) than 2007, according to a survey by Reporters Without Borders released in December, with 60 journalists killed, compared to 86 from the year before. Iraq ranks as the most dangerous country for journalists, with 15 killed last year, but Mexico is one of the worst. Some consider it the most dangerous country after Iraq. A study released Wednesday by the International News Safety Institute (INSI) in Belgium showed that India and Mexico followed Iraq in terms of danger for the media. They counted 10 deaths in each.Skip to next paragraph
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Mexico's National Human Rights Commission counts 11 reporters killed in 2008. Some of the most notorious cases in recent years include the disappearance of a TV Azteca Noreste reporter and cameraman in Monterrey – still unsolved – and the murder of Amado Ramirez, a Televisa correspondent, in Acapulco. In November, alleged hitmen killed Armando Rodriguez, a veteran crime reporter, outside his home in the border city of Ciudad Juárez.
Journalists in rugged border towns such as Juárez, where a quarter of all executions tallied by the government took place last year, say they are scared. Erika, a local drug gang reporter who did not want her last name published, says she was unwillingly moved into the post after her predecessor received a death threat. "I didn't want this job, especially because my mom is so worried," she says. Sometimes she uses her byline; other times not.
Congressman Priego Tapia says the government has not paid enough attention to the plight of journalists – partially because they are part of the problem. While nearly all, if not all, of the executions of journalists are linked to organized crime, four of ten general threats, which can include breaking cameras or phone calls warning not to publish or even physical harm, come from Mexican authorities, he says.
He is pushing for a bill, struck down at the end of last year, which makes attacks against the media a federal crime. He says that organized crime groups wield too much influence over state and local investigations.
But so far, he says, the government has responded indifferently. His case in point: In December, Octavio Orellana, Mexico's special prosecutor for crimes against journalists, downplayed the threat against freedom of expression. He said that only three of 25 reporters killed in the last two years were killed directly because of their work. They are killed for the reasons "similar to what affects the rest of Mexicans," Mr. Orellana said at a press conference, referring to the overall crime rate.
Reporters Without Borders says that four Mexicans were killed last year alone in cases where there was a clear link between their deaths and their work.