Friday, November 19, 2010

Report: Mexican newspapers limit drug violence coverage

Back in September an editorial in the El Diario de (Ciudad) Juarez newspaper offered to make a truce with the area’s violent drug gangs. "We ask you to explain what you want from us, what we should try to publish or not publish, so we know what to expect,” read part of the editorial that was published days after gunmen murdered an El Diario photographer. According to a report released this week El Diario isn’t the only media outlet feeling pressure from so-called “narcoviolence.”

An investigation by Fundacion MEPI of eleven regional newspapers concluded that they rarely covered violence related to organized crime. “It's not that the pages of police news are empty, but that the newspapers focus on minor crimes or acts that have nothing to do with the drug world," said the report entitled “México: The New Spiral of Silence”.

The MEPI reported highlighted coverage by the El Norte newspaper from Ciudad Juárez. Though drug gangs have been linked to roughly 300 murders each month since the beginning of this year El Norte mentioned on less than 40 stories per month on these criminal organizations. In another case, the MEPI report found that drug violence coverage in Veracruz’ El Dictamen nosedived after a reporter was kidnapped reportedly gangs and then subsequently released.

Perhaps the clearest example of this journalistic repression occurred months ago in Pachuca:
(Weeks before Valentine’s Day) mysterious letters were delivered to local reporters in various smaller towns surrounding the capital of Pachuca. The letters invited reporters, free-lancers who typically earn $400 a month, to a party at the ranch Santa Inez, in Tepeji del Río, a local town.

A reporter from the Valle del Mezquital who did not attend the party relayed an account he told MEPI he had heard from two colleagues. "Someone stopped the music and told those present everything was for them: the women, the alcohol, the gifts."

The only condition: do not interfere with business.

Soon after Valentine's Day, reporting on drug-related violence in Hidalgo plummeted, according to the MEPI story. Nobody ever wrote about the party or the message to reporters.
The MEPI report concentrated on regional dailies but it also noted an alleged lack of attention to the regional press by national media outlets. Part of the reason for this is an economic crisis that has hit all forms of media very hard. Yet El Norte editor Alfredo Quijano claimed that there is an “arrogance” by the major media against regional dailies and he claimed in the report that “more foreign correspondents have come to (Ciudad) Juarez than journalists” from Mexico City.

Image- AP via MSNBC (“A soldier and investigators work at the site where a vehicle exploded outside the Televisa network in the northern city of Ciudad Victoria, Mexico” last August).
Online Sources- Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas,, ProPublica, The Latin Americanist, New York Daily News

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