Journalism is being practiced in the midst of the worst violence in recent years. Between January of 2007 and July of 2008, there have been at least 4,000 deaths, mostly during conflicts between organized crime gangs fighting over territory.
Most of the victims were members of the criminal gangs, but innocent civilians caught in the cross-fire have to be added to the casualty lists. Dozens of people have been kidnapped.
Violence has increased since president Felipe Calderón decided to fight drug cartels with the Mexican Army and the federal police.
The freedom of expression and the freedom of the press have been attacked within this context of violence.
In the last six months, three reporters died. Media outlets and journalists are still intimidated and assaulted.
The lack of results in investigating the crimes and attacks against reporters and media outlets proves that the Federal and State Administrations are not willing to solve them. The prime example is the case of the reporter Alfredo Jiménez Mota, from the newspaper El Imparcial, who has been missing since April 2, 2005.
There is a very complete report on impunity drafted by the International Delegation of Journalists who visited the country on April 20 - 25.
This International Delegation consisted of 11 national and international associations that support freedom of the press and the protection of journalists (the IAPA is among them). It mentioned that the main obstacles for the practice of journalism are organized crime, corruption, and the fact that the Mexican Administration does not give protection or ensure the security of journalists.
Another remaining obstacle is the arbitrary distribution of official advertisements, often used by local and state governments to pressure and control media outlets. Advertisements are a prize or a punishment given at the discretion of the ruler in office. A key example is the way the Administration withheld advertisements from the newspaper AM de Leon because of its criticisms of Administration’s activities.
On the other hand, verbal attacks on the media by state and local officials to discredit their journalistic work are more and more frequent and tend to weaken the critical and independent press.
It is remarkable that the Federal Administration and the Legislative Committee made a formal commitment regarding attacks on journalists. There has been progress in a proposal to put crimes against the Freedom of Expression and assaults on journalists under federal jurisdiction, because the media outlets and the newspapers play a civil role.
Chronology of important events:
On April 7, the 24-year reporter Teresa Bautista Flores and her 20-year colleague Felicitas Martínez, were killed. They both worked for the indigenous community radio station “La Voz que Rompe el Silencio” (The Voice that Breaks the Silence), in the city of Oaxaca, Oaxaca. The station was known for its reporting of the attacks against the local indigenous community.
On May 8 2008, the reporter Emilio Gutiérrez Soto, from the newspaper "El Norte” of Ciudad Juárez, reported that a group of 50 soldiers broke into his home there, and searched it without a warrant. The journalist reported the events to the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) and went to the United States to seek political asylum. He is now in the Immigration Detention Center in El Paso, Texas, where on July 25 he was notified that he may be granted asylum.
On June 13, 2008, photographer Tomás Montejo from a local newspaper in Villahermosa, Tabasco, reported that town police officials hit him and stole his camera memory card when he covered an event about the delivery of economic compensations. Police officials blamed the media outlets for the fact that police officials were being “killed” because the media outlets linked them to the Los Zetas, a criminal gang.
On July 30, 2008, some individuals shot at the homes of the announcers Jorge Aragón and Melesio Melchor, from the community Radio Zaachila at around 2:00. There were .38 super and .22-caliber shells on the façades. The reporters blamed the shootings on Zaachila councilman, Noé Pérez, who had accused Radio Zaachila of being a “pirate radio station".
On August 1, 2008, police officials insulted, hit, detained, and finally arrested reporter Victor Molina, from the newspaper La Verdad, in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, at home. He said that he and his family were in a get-together when the police operation was carried out.
On August 5, 2008, reporter Jorge Inzunza, from Sol de Sinaloa, was hit with the butt of a rifle and soldiers stole his camera, when he filmed their fight against alleged criminals.
On September 24, reporter and announcer Alejandro Fonseca Estrada, from Villahermosa, Tabasco, was killed by some individuals when he put up street banners to protest the wave of violence in town. Some banners read: “The kidnapper lives as long as the citizens want him to”. Nobody has been detained yet for these events.
Alejandro Junco, president of Grupo Reforma, left the country in September, along with his family in the face of apparent threats from organized crime. Similar things have happened to reporters from media outlets along the northern border, who have had to flee to the United States to avoid reprisals from drug traffickers.