Inside Story Americas
Why has Mexico turned deadly for journalists?
We ask why the Latin American country is now one of the deadliest for reporters and how fear has impacted press freedom.
Last Modified: 24 May 2012 12:30

There were at least 172 confirmed attacks against the media in Mexico last year. Article 19, a group promoting press freedom, alleges government officials were responsible for more than half of those attacks.

"A group of hitmen shot patrons in a bar killing 13 people including two journalists .… Some organisations say this is not related to the journalism work they were doing…[but] if we don't have enough investigation, who really knows the truth."

- Luis Horacio Najera, a veteran Mexican journalist

The violence appears unabated. Last month, reporter Regina Martinez, who often wrote about drug cartels, was found strangled in her home in the state of Veracruz.

Within days the mutilated bodies of two photojournalists were found in the same state. And just last week a reporter's body was found stuffed into a garbage bag.

In March, the murder of journalists was made a federal crime. A month later, Mexico's congress approved a law providing protection for threatened journalists.

But human rights organisations are sceptical about whether the new laws will be implemented at the local level. They say state and municipal authorities often cave in to pressure from organised crime groups leading to impunity.

Caught between drug gangs and widespread corruption among police and government officials, many journalists have chosen self-censorship as a way to stay alive.

"The situation has reached crisis proportions .... In many places reporters are not doing their job because of fear and even if they don't do their job they still get killed…What I see is there is a lack of political will by the federal government, by the president..."

- Dolia Estevez, a senior advisor for the US-Mexico Journalism Initiative at Woodrow Wilson Center

One journalist who has been kidnapped and threatened repeatedly and spoke to Al Jazeera's Rachel Levin on condition of anonymity said: "The government is involved with the cartels. In Mexico we have too much impunity and corruption. There will always be an official who will tip off the drug traffickers. As long as there is no autonomy or independence for the people who are supposed to investigate these crimes, we are going to be left at the mercy of the criminals and the corrupt politicians. This is why so many of us don't even report the threats against us. It's not only a waste of time, it's because the police and the government are corrupt and involved with organised crime."

Inside Story Americas asks: What impact have these attacks had on the freedom of the press in Mexico?

Fearing for their lives several Mexican journalists have sought asylum. One of them, Luis Horacio Najera, a veteran journalist who reported on government corruption and drug trafficking in Ciudad Juarez, and who now lives in Canada, joins the discussion with presenter Anand Naidoo and other guests: Dolia Estevez, a senior adviser for the US-Mexico Journalism Initiative at Woodrow Wilson Center and Ricardo Gonzalez, a security and protection officer of Article 19, a human rights organisation.

"There are only two crime reporters in Velacruz and this is working in the government's favour because the public is not getting any information on the violence and also the human rights abuses by the armed forces in the state."

Ricardo Gonzalez, a security and protection officer of Article 19


  • Mexico is one of the world's most dangerous countries for reporters
  • Press freedom group Article 19 says there were 172 attacks on the country's media in 2011, and 155 attacks in 2010. It says public officials commit more than half of the attacks
  • Most attacks occur in Veracruz, Oaxaca, Coahuila, Chihuahua and Mexico City
  • The attacks have led to self-censorship, prompting many to use pseudonyms. Some are turning to social media to report on crime in Mexico
  • Most murdered journalists had previously received death threats
  • Press watchdog the Committee to Protect Journalists says 30 reporters were killed since Felipe Calderon was elected in 2006
  • Violence against reporters goes largely unpunished in Mexico, and murders are often not investigated by the authorities
  • Criminal groups hold de facto control in many parts of the country
  • Recently Mexico's congress adopted new laws making it a federal crime to attack reporters
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