UPDATE on May 15, 2017: Today Javier Valdez Cárdenas, Mexican journalist was assassinated in Sinaloa, the drug capital of Mexico. According to Huffington Post, "Cárdenas began his career in journalism in the early 1990s, according to La Jornada, a Mexican news outlet where he worked as a national correspondent. He founded RioDoce in 2003, which has won several awards. He also won an International Press Freedom award in 2011.He compiled much of his reporting into several books, the most recent of which, Narcoperiodismo was published late last year. It tells the stories of Mexican journalists who have been victims of crimes."
Javier Valdez Cárdenas presente!
Today is World Press Freedom Day, declared by UNESCO as a way to bring attention to the critical role played by journalists in creating a just society. In recent months, we've seen the US press attacked by the Trump administration, a focus on "fake news," and other hostile characterizations of journalists that undermine the public's confidence in reporting. We can't lose sight, amid this anti-press propaganda, of how important journalism is to our freedom.
A few days ago, I had the privilege to attend a lecture of Mexican journalist Anabel Hernandez, an investigative reporter whose recent book La Verdadera Noche de Iguala about the disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero has brought new attention to the horrendous crime. She lives in Berkeley now, having fled Mexico because of death threats.
A few weeks ago, journalist Miroslava Breach was murdered outside her home while she was in her car with her children. The message left on a piece of cardboard said simply "tattle tale." Breach was well-known for reporting on the situation of the Raramuri in Chihuahua, an indigenous group who has been fighting narco-traffickers and illegal loggers. Many of them have been murdered as well. El Norte, a newspaper in Juarez, decided to close following her murder and the killings of two other journalists. Oscar A. Cantú Murguía, the newspaper's owner, said the closing was an act of protest. He told interviewers if there was no freedom of the press, he could do no more.
Just yesterday the New York-based group Committee to Protect Journalists reported that Mexico is the most dangerous country for journalists where over 50 have been murdered since 2010. Gangs, cartels, and corrupt government officials have found is easy to silence criticism. The murders of journalists are rarely pursued.
As a historian and as a fronteriza, the Mexican/ Spanish language press is important to me. Doing research about the early 20th century showed me that the Spanish language press was only the only medium that would cover issues related to Mexican Americans. Living on the border today has demonstrated the same. I know that newspapers like El Diario de El Paso will cover issues and events important to my community that English language newspapers will ignore.
Anabel Hernandez courtesy of Journalists without Borders
Anabel Hernandez and the widespread killing of Mexican journalists has shown me another reason to care about what happens to journalists in Mexico. Investigative reporters like Hernandez and the late Miroslava Breach risk their lives to reveal the corruption and power of drugs consumed in the United States. Without the US as a consumer of drugs like heroin, the cartels, the corrupt government officials and law enforcement officers would not have the money nor the motivation to kill these journalists.
We are part of the problem. We are complicit. I read someone say once, "Each high an American experience is covered with the blood of the innocent." We are just getting a taste of what it is like to have our press constantly threatened and bullied by our government. We have to care about freedom of the press for ourselves and for our global neighbors.
Today on World Press Freedom Day, I am honoring the journalists who have risked so much to uncover what Anabel Hernandez says is the truth that every victim and every society has the right to and which Miroslava Breach died for.
Miroslava Breach courtesy of the BBC