Is Mexico's drug violence scaring off the next generation of journalists?
Drug violence has made Mexico a dangerous place to be a reporter, and it is affecting journalism schools that now struggle to keep their doors open and train aspiring journalists.
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When rumors spread last month that drug traffickers had rolled into town, he opened an anonymous Twitter account to warn residents where they should and shouldn’t go, changing the IP address often so no one would identify where he was.Skip to next paragraph
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But once he graduates, Castillo hopes to steer clear of the crime beat. “You put your life in danger and then sometimes you have to leave the country,” he says. “I don’t want to have to do that. The worst would be to put my family’s life in danger.”
Journalism was tightly controlled in Mexico through much of the 20th century, as the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) maintained its grip on society for 71 years. But with pioneering media companies and journalism schools, as well as Mexico’s 2000 transition to democracy, journalism has professionalized in ways that some worry is now being undone.
But it is not just threats from organized crime that makes students question journalism today. The media’s reputation has suffered since July presidential elections, when a student movement called #YoSoy132 protested what it called the unfair, favorable coverage of president-elect Enrique Pena Nieto of the PRI. Corruption has also put some journalists on outside payrolls, at times the suspected reason they are victims of murder.
But violence has had the most direct impact on the trade, and many blame the government for not doing enough to protect the media in today’s climate.
Mr. Gonzalez, from the freedom of expression organization, often travels to journalism schools across Mexico, most recently in Coahuila, and he says that schools are not doing enough to impart lessons to students about staying safe, especially in regions most gripped by organized crime. One school’s program just shut its doors in Laredo, across the border from Texas, he says. At the University of Morelia in Michoacan, the rector told Reuters that the journalism program was shut down for this academic cycle because there weren’t enough students.
Claudia García Rubio, a professor at the Tecnologico de Monterrey, says she feels like she is facing a daily contradiction: trying to instill the ideals of investigation without limit, while urging students to do so with caution and intelligence. Already one of her students scored an interview with the wife of a drug trafficker, but she had to urge the student, she says, not to publish a piece about the daily lives of drug traffickers because its publication could have put the student's life in danger.
On a recent day, Ms. García’s students, all in their last year of school, analyzed a map of press freedoms, where the line for Mexico plummets over the course of the past five years. But, she says, the decline in press freedom in some ways has motivated both teachers and students to demand more of themselves and the profession.
“Instead of throwing the towel in,” she says, looking at her class knowingly, “we have to redouble our efforts.”