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Since 2006, Mexico has witnessed a surge in violence and drug wars with more than 50,000 people dead and many more missing to this date. The death toll for Mexican journalists now stands at a shocking 80 and estimates suggest the number of deaths is even higher. Mexico is now ranked as the deadliest country in the world for journalists and the media. Every day, people are dying and the number is fast approaching 60,000.
Adrian Silva Moreno, a contributor to the Mexican newspaper Puntual, was gunned down in his car after he had reported a story surrounding gasoline thefts in the city of Tehuacan. According to witnesses, the gunmen opened fire and soon fled the scene of the crime. IPI Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie said, “This latest, brazen killing, committed in broad daylight, is a testament to the mortal threat facing journalists in Mexico,” further adding to his comment, “How many reporters need to die before the country’s stakeholders realize that the appalling violence against the media is not only costing precious lives but also eating away at the foundations of free society?”
The stories are gruesome and terrifying. A magazine editor was ruthlessly beaten up in Oaxaca after he covered a story on government intimidation. A freelance journalist was mercilessly shot dead in his car, after covering a military operation. Regina Martinez Perez was a respected correspondent for the national magazine, Proceso, covering high-level corruption and politics. She was strangled to death in her apartment in Veracruz after being attacked by unknown assailants. Veracruz is one of Mexico’s most politically corrupt states and Regina had a dirty beat to cover.
The state government had many secrets to hide and government officials did nothing to aid in the investigation process. Instead, according to a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the state appeared to be fabricating a murder case against an innocent man. Journalists, outraged by the apathy shown by the officials, frankly stated that the truth was being covered up.
The rising number of attacks on journalists is attributed to former President Felipe Calderon after he assumed office in 2006 and launched a war on Mexico’s drug cartels. Since then, thousands of adults and children have gone missing and hundreds of families have been destroyed. Although, official statistics report only 25,000 people missing, the reality is harsher. Over 100,000 people have simply vanished and no one knows where.
Speaking out against the atrocities committed on the press in Mexico, Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UNESCO said in a news release, “It is essential that the perpetrators of this crime be brought to justice. Violence against journalists in Mexico has reached an intolerable level.”
Coverage of drug-related violence and organized crime, now only results in threats and intimidation. News coverage is being compromised and editors and journalists live in fear. Measures to protect journalists, has so far been a massive failure. Despite the horrors and lack of government support, journalism still exists in Mexico. Freedom of expression is every human being’s right and this right is being brutishly taken away from the people of Mexico each day. Although, drug cartels have a role to play in the increasing number of deaths, law enforcement officials are behind the ruthless attacks too. Press freedom is restricted and the government views the media as their supporter. Hence, the guilty have gotten away, scot-free.
With President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto having begun his six-year term on December 1, the people and the press are now hopeful that crimes against freedom of expression will end. It is now up to the new President to guarantee security for journalists and to hear the voices of the people of Mexico.