- Posted July 28, 2012 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Photo essays: Your stories in pictures
Mexican drug cartel tries to silence photojournalists
Mexican drug cartels have implemented a policy of terror against journalists who fail to follow their wishes. Threats and brutal killings are silencing media in many parts of America and Mexico close to the shared border.
Raul Omar Martinez, president of Buendia Foundation on Journalism recently told CNN, “The power of drug traffickers has reduced a large part of the nation’s journalism to silence.”
In May, the dismembered bodies of three photographers were found, wrapped in plastic bags, in a canal in the metropolitan area of Veracrus.
Just days before the bodies were discovered, a correspondent with the Mexican national weekly magazine Proceso was found strangled in her home.
Journalists along the border from San Diego to El Paso have been summoned by suspected drug gangs after the killing of Yolanda Ordaz de la Cruz in July 2011 according to a Phoenix journalist who declined to be named.
“Sometimes they are called in when gangs wish to give them messages about what they may or may not publish,” according to the journalist who refused to give his name for fear of reprisals.
Other times, armed men summon journalists and beat several of them in front of their colleagues for refusing to obey their orders.
The U.S./Mexican border along in Arizona has become a battleground between the powerful Sinaloa drug gang of Mexico’s most wanted man, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, and the brutal Zetas, a group founded by elite commandos who deserted in the 90s.
The Zetax controlled the border between 2008 and 2011 and harassed the news media. In the summer of 2011, a new group arrived which was liked to the Sinaloa Cartel and are known as the “New Generation” or “mataZetas” – the Zeta Killers.
Another reporter who spoke on condition of anonymity explained the difficulty.
“A person that was your source a few months later becomes a Zeta, and calls you up with information,” the reporter said.
“I asked myself, ‘what if one day the coin flips and another organization wants to pressure you?’”
“And that’s what happened” when the MataZetas arrived, said the reporter.
The U.,S./Mexican border in Arizona is now one of the 10 most dangerous places in the world to work as a journalist according to Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders. Since the start of 2011, eight media workers have been killed along this stretch.
The situation is a “combination of negligence and generalized corruption,” according to New York-based media watchdog the Committee to Protect Journalists.
While the Zetas have already imposed their rules on journalists along the border, a similar situation has occurred with different gangs in Ciudad Juarez, a city on the U.S. border with Mexico’s highest murder rate.
Following the September 2010 killing of a photographer, the El Diario de Juarez newspaper published an editorial directly addressing the Mexican drug carte.
“What do you want from us?” it said. “What do you want us to publish or not publish, so we know what to adhere to?”
While the Mexican President has announced a plan to protect journalists and in June 2012, Mexico’s Congress approved a law protecting journalists on risky assignments, the U.S. has no policy in place to accomplish the same goal.
Meanwhile the threats and killings show no sign of abating.
Some 79 journalists have been killed and 14 have gone missing since 2000, according to the National Commission of Human Rights, an autonomous state body.