In late 2010, shortly after the publication of her book “Los Señores del Narco” (The Lords of Drug Trafficking), Mexican journalist Anabel Hernández* was told by sources close to her that Genaro García Luna, head of the chief law enforcement agency in Mexico during the administration of former president Felipe Calderón, intended to have her killed for the accusations the journalist raised against him in her book.
Hérnandez reported the threats to local authorities in Mexico City and received police protection. The bodyguards have escorted her everywhere for the last two years; however, Mexico City's authorities recently stated that they have no jurisdiction over her case and, despite granting her an extension, they intend to discontinue her protection in three months.
Convinced that society loses when those who seek to expose corruption are forced to leave their countries, Hernández is currently requesting an indefinite extension of the security measures she receives to continue with her work in Mexico.
In the following guest column written for the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, Hernández describes the effects and consequences her investigations have had on her life -- and the lives of her family and sources.
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I am an investigative reporter.
For over five years I investigated the corruption and abuse of authority that took place within the now-defunct federal agency Public Safety Secretariat (SSP), under Secretary Genaro Garía Luna. During that time I discovered the deep networks of complicity between García Luna, his close circle and organized criminal groups, which ranged from kidnapping gangs to drug cartels, chiefly the Sinaloa Cartel.
I documented the inexplicable enrichment of the former police chief, as well as open investigations at the Attorney General's Office (PGR) that he wanted to keep secret, in which members of the Sinaloa Cartel directly accused García Luna's closest team of providing them with protection in exchange of juicy bribes.
As a consequence of this journalistic investigation, the former head of the SSP began to harass me and retaliate against my sources. Fear did not stop me from continuing my work as a journalist, as I have always considered that remaining silent before these acts of corruption turned me into an accomplice. I have always believed that in-depth, well-documented and accurate investigative journalism can contribute to create a more just country and make the corrupt accountable.
In December 2010, after the publication of my book “Los Señores del Narco," in which I exposed part of this corruption, I was informed by a reliable source that García Luna was recruiting agents from the Federal Investigation Agency (AFI) to kill me as punishment for my work as a journalist.
I denounced these threats publicly and filed a complaint before Mexico City's General Prosecutor's office (PGJDF). Since then the agency has granted me cautionary measures that consist in having police escorts with me 24 hours a day. Even though it's terrible to live with bodyguards and it has forced me to change my life, it has helped me stay alive and continue with my investigative work.
My family suffered an attack in January 2011, and the threats continued. During all this time my sources have been threatened, killed or incarcerated unjustly; there's even someone who was tortured last year to make up charges against me. In May 2011 I filed a complaint against García Luna to open an investigation with the PGR because, even though the agency was part of Felipe Calderón's government, I wanted to set a legal precedent of what was happening to me.
In 2012 an important source, General Mario Arturo Acosta Chaparro, was murdered. Another one of my sources was tortured by the PGR (still under Calderón's administration) so he would testify against me.
In November 2012 I published my most recent book, “México en Llamas” (Mexico in Flames), in which I reveal all these infamies and present new evidence on the corruption of the Federal Police.
I have defended my life and my right to freedom of expression, but a few days ago I was informed from a direct fully reliable source that García Luna still plans to get back at me for my investigation.
I have expanded my complaint before the PGJDF and the PGR. However, the PGJDF stated earlier this month that it holds no competence over my case and sent it to the PGR, which hasn't made any progress in their investigations in the last two years, despite having leads that I presented to them after the attack against my family. To this moment I haven't received any notification or explanation from the PGJDF. I learned about their decision on Monday March 11 unexpectedly during an appointment at the PGR.
Thanks to the intervention of international organizations and governments, the PGJDF agreed last Wednesday to uphold the cautionary measures for three more months. I am grateful, but I request that these remain indefinitely.
I can't accept that the Ministerial Federal Police or the PF become responsible for my protection -- which is what the PGR is offering me -- when I denounced their corruption for years and most of the top officials owe their positions to García Luna, and many of his people remain there. To offer that these police officers whom I denounced become responsible for my protection is absurd and makes no sense. It's practically pushing me to leave Mexico. I hope that the PGR and the PGJDF can sign a collaboration agreement so that the PGJDF continues in charge of my protection.
I know I'm in the black list of very powerful men like Genaro García Luna. And there are well-respected persons in Mexico with great moral quality that have directly witnessed the irrational hatred that this former police chief holds against me, but are unwilling to testify out of fear, and I can't and shouldn't force them to do so.
I know that García Luna is waiting for the moment to fulfill his treats at a time with less political cost. I know that I have nothing else besides the truth, my voice and my work as a journalist, and I'm going to defend myself.
I find myself in a fight for my life and the life of my relatives, for justice and for the ability to continue practicing journalism freely.
Living in silence is not living, in any corner of the planet. Living and remaining silent about how the corrupt, crime and impunity continue to take ahold of my country is also to die. I continue denouncing the decomposition of Mexico and the collusion of politicians and public servants.
Death, threats or censorship against journalists is an attack against society's right to have access to information, and those who carry out these attacks are just as responsible as those who allow them. Without freedom of expression, justice and democracy are not possible.
The PGR investigators, now solely responsible for my case, have not solved one single case of threatened, missing or murdered journalists. I refuse to be one more casual produced by the failure of authorities.
At this moment I still have police escorts, who just recently informed me verbally that they will remain with me three more months. Again, many thanks to organizations like Libera in Italy, the French Embassy in Mexico and Reporters Without Borders for their intervention. But after these three months, what's next?
This is the angst with which I live.
*Anabel Hernández is an award-winning journalist that has dedicated her career to denouncing corruption in Mexico. She is currently a freelance contributor for news magazine Proceso and newspaper Reforma. She is the author of the books "La Familia Presidencial" (2005), "Fin de Fiesta en Los Pinos" (2006), "Los Señores del Narco" (2010) and "México en Llamas" (2012).
Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.