The danger of being a journalist in Mexico
Mexico is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist. This year alone, fifteen reporters have been murdered.
They face threats not only from drug cartels, but from their own government.
“Please behave yourself, I beg of you. Difficult times are coming,” former governor of Veracruz, Javier Duarte, said. “We’re going to shake the tree, and a lot of bad apples are going to fall out.”
In 2012, Regina Martinez was one of those so-called bad apples.
Now a fellow journalist is revealing the tangled web that led to her death, and that keeps journalists in Mexico living in fear.
“That’s why she was so dangerous, it was because she was bucking a system. And as more and more journalists started bucking the system, they have found themselves in a lot of danger,” Katherine Corcoran says.
Today, On Point: The danger of being a journalist in Mexico.
Katherine Corcoran, independent journalist who served as the Associated Press bureau chief in Mexico City from 2010 to 2016. Author of In the Mouth of the Wolf, out on October 18th.
Jorge Carrasco, editor of Proceso, the magazine Regina Martinez was working for when she was murdered.
Transcript: Jorge Carrasco on the danger of being a journalist in Mexico
KIMBERLY ATKINS-STOHR: Today, we’re looking at the murders of journalists in Mexico. 15 so far this year, more than anywhere else in the world. And we’re looking at one death in particular, the 2012 murder of Regina Martinez, a journalist from the state of Veracruz.
Regina was the Veracruz correspondent for a magazine called Proceso, a national political magazine based in Mexico City. Jorge Carrasco was her editor at the time, and he’s now Proceso’s editor-in-chief. He told us that before she was killed, even Regina, a famously dogged reporter, had started to self-censor herself.
JORGE CARRASCO: She was killed in April 2012, and the last conversation we had was in December 2011. And at that moment she told me that the situation in Veracruz was so difficult, and that’s why she decided not to make independent research, because the situation was so, so difficult.
ATKINS-STOHR: Regina wasn’t giving up on journalism, but she was steering clear of certain topics, especially of government and military corruption.
CARRASCO: She told me that she wanted to write economy, the social issues, but not security. Because she told me that the military there was involved in criminal activities. And that’s why she decided to stop any association of that.
ATKINS STOHR: But that decision didn’t protect her. Her murder sent shockwaves through the Mexican media.
CARRASCO: Regina was a blocking of the line. So at that moment, the news or the morays was limited to two local reporters and no National Journal. So it was so, so shocking for us. For me, particular.
ATKINS-STOHR: But instead of being scared, Jorge became determined. He went to Veracruz to investigate Regina’s murder. He published a piece about the tangled web of organized crime and local officials that had wanted her dead. Jorge made a name for himself.
CARRASCO: When I write down that piece, I received a message from an anonymous source that told me, I don’t know what you write down, but the government of Veracruz is so angry with you, and they decided to go for you at Mexico City.
ATKINS-STOHR: The threats against Jorge were very real and very frightening.
CARRASCO: I began to receive personal information about my address … my education, educational background, and things like my driver’s licenses. So there was evidence that I was target of these mix of authorities.
ATKINS-STOHR: Jorge left Mexico with family for a while. But even when he returned, he needed the protection of a bodyguard for several years.
And Jorge says staying safe as a journalist in Mexico means being judicious about what you cover and what you don’t cover.
CARRASCO: What I say to my colleagues is that we are not policemen. We are journalists. So we have to talk about issues of general interest, but not issues that the police had to work on. So it’s difficult to say, but it’s a way to gain safety in Mexico.
ATKINS-STOHR: It’s made even harder by the fact that they’re under attack from their own government.
CARRASCO: I want to be clear about how the Mexican government is creating a background so adverse to work as a journalist in Mexico. We have the official speech, talking all the days about … the bad guys of the press, the guys of the press are opposite to the government, which mean that they are liars. And that is very difficult to work.
ATKINS-STOHR: The government often accuses journalists of being unprofessional and corrupt and of having links to the cartels. Jorge acknowledges there’s some truth to some of those claims.
CARRASCO: It’s so difficult to me to talk about this, but it’s true. I’m talking about Mexico City, or in other big cities like Monterrey and Guadalajara. I’m talking about the three largest cities in Mexico. You have a professional media, professional media organization as a business. And also in other cities of the country. But the local media, I’m so sorry to say that most of them are no professionals.
ATKINS-STOHR: In places riddled with corruption, journalists can find it hard to stay on the straight and narrow.
CARRASCO: It’s easy to be trapped between corruption or a kind of arrangement with the criminal organizations. It’s so difficult. Also, at the same time, I believe that there are very local journalists that are very compromising with the truth. So it really is so difficult to distinguish.
This article was originally published on WBUR.org.
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