Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Journalists are targets in Mexico's drug war

The death toll in Mexico's drug war — already above 4,000 this year — had just risen. But on this day, none of the seven bodies belonged to journalists. Photographer Hector Dayer grabbed his camera, pulled up the collar of his jacket to hide his face, and stepped out to photograph the carnage.

Mexico is the deadliest place in the Americas to be a journalist, and among the deadliest in the world. The Committee to Protect Journalists says at least 24 have been killed since 2000. Seven have vanished in the past three years. Many of the victims had reported on police ties to cartels. Some are suspected of accepting drug money. Of the 24 cases, the committee says, only one has been solved.

Some attacks target specific journalists, others entire newsrooms. In at least two cases, grenades have been thrown at newspaper offices.

The attacks are silencing journalists and undermining the Mexico democracy. News media in Mexico have stopped reporting on the drug war, with most limiting their reports to facts put out by authorities, with no context, analysis or investigation. Most of the time, journalists don't even report on killings they witness.

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico's bloodiest city with about 1,400 deaths this year alone, is an exception. There, journalists continue to cover the daily deaths, without using bylines or photo credits.

Nearly all the crime reporters have received threats. Media-freedom groups are lobbying Mexico's Congress to pass a bill that would make attacks on the news media a federal crime.

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