Maribel Gutierrez Moreno

The Courage to Tell a Story

I am a reporter for the weekly paper El Sur, distributed in the state of Guerrero, and the correspondent for La Jornada, a national daily newspaper in Mexico.

Five years ago with a group of journalists, I helped start up the El Sur newspaper in Guerrero. It is the poorest state in the country, with a recent history of political violence, guerrilla movements, human rights violations, great economic inequities, important social movements, and intense political activity.

We had planned to publish an independent newspaper.

We did not expect the obstacles to our work the government has raised. For this newspaper, financed by a large group of small investors, I have covered topics related to social movements and human rights in our state.

During the first few years, we faced economic difficulties mainly due to systematic efforts of the government to do away with El Sur.

Lately, the hostility has increased, especially since the guerrilla activity was reactivated in the state in June 1996.

Under the pretext of fighting the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR), intelligence units of the Mexican Army and the attorney general's office have tried to link journalists from the southern states to this armed group by publishing black lists that carry my name, among others, on them.

My work has recently been the target of these attacks. Without any justification, government agents have recently mentioned me among the people - peasants for the most part - that they want to link with the EPR and that have been threatened with death.

This is part of the political violence we live under in our state. It represents an attack against the work of journalists, the media, and the right to information.

These false accusations, these attempts to cast doubts on our impartiality, to place us on the side of illegality - on the side of the enemy in an undeclared war - can only be explained by a high level of intolerance for independent journalism.

Even faced with events such as the recent devastation brought about by hurricane Pauline that added destruction and death to the poverty of coastal Oaxaca and Guerrero - which encompasses the resort of Acapulco - the Mexican government tries to control information.

We, the journalists of Guerrero and Mexico, work against this trend. And the importance that the International Women's Media Foundation grants our work is extremely valuable for us.

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