Journalist Killings in Mexico

In 2018, the world was shocked by the murder of journalist Kashoggi. His work as a journalist and the critical attitude he took with his work is what ultimately cost him his life. The enormous danger that Kashoggi was in because of his work and its terrible outcome is unfortunately in line with worldwide figures of journalists killed.

A total of 156 journalists were killed between 2018 and 2019. At the end of September 2020, 39 journalists were reported dead. The cases that were resolved linger between 10 and 15 percent in all years, leaving an enormous impunity rate. Fatal attacks against journalists have risen, mostly when these journalists have been covering stories related to corruption, human rights violations and political wrongdoing.

Journalists are at most risk in Latin America. Due to a high level of corruption and bad political regimes, journalists struggle most in performing their job here. This shows that most killings no longer occur in countries at war. Nor is the most dangerous country for journalists a country at war: Mexico.

A combination of a lacking government, corrupt cops and violent drug cartels make the situation in Mexico dire. Journalists in the big cities mainly have to deal with the first factor, while journalists working in more isolated regions mainly have to deal with the last two factors.

For example, in urban protests against femicide, 4 journalists were killed. In a more remote area where two criminal cartels operate, Israel Vázquez Rangel was shot while he was reporting on the discovery of human remains dumped on a road. The Mexican government created a regulation – ” Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists ” – aimed at keeping journalists safer. Although this seemed like progression, there are massive loopholes in the regulation that help guilty parties to avoid transparency.

The general situation for journalists in Mexico also results in a declining interest in the field of journalism among students. This leaves the question: who will be keeping the honest industry alive?

One of the platforms that aims at keeping the industry alive, is the project of Forbidden Stories, which is a global network of journalists who aim to continue the work of threatened, censored or killed journalists by investigating linkages between Mexican drug cartels and their political connections around the world. The message given is: ‘Killing the journalist, won’t kill the story’.

A key finding was the misuse of cyber-surveillance by drug cartels who have access to cyber security tools, whereby journalists are hacked and spied on. Another observation was the active role of the Mexican government in weapon trade, in which local police were provided with European and Israelian firearms. This included local police who had been documented as human rights violators and collusion with cartels.

Moreover, all killed journalists in Mexico worked without social security, using their skills to demand compliance with the law. Normally, journalism in Mexico is in the hands of big companies who work with the Government or have the ability to blackmail the Government, something that freelancers are not capable of. Multiple reporters told that their governmental contract would end if they won’t stop criticizing the President.

Journalists are also indirectly threatened by the Government, which was reflected in the speech of President Obrador in April 2019, when he told journalists that ‘if you go too far, you know what will happen’. Even though the President clarified his statement the day after, his comments were widely criticized, as his country is known for the many journalist killings.

These findings from Forbidden Stories (link can be found in resource bank) show how the work of journalists and the additional dangers come about in practice. Want to do something about this objectionable situation?

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