Cartoons auctioned off in Mexico City to support journalists displaced by death threats

A group of cartoonists will participate on Friday, June 14, in an auction of political cartoons to benefit nine displaced Mexican journalists who currently live in refuge in Mexico City due to death threats. The event was organized by Reporters Without Borders, Mexico's Red Periodistas de a Pie ("Journalists on Foot" in Spanish), and magazine El Chamuco.

“They are journalists who leave (their original homes) without clothes, without money, and without work," explained Marcela Turati, co-founder of Periodistas de a Pie.

The auction of cartoons will take place on Friday, June 14, at 7:00p.m. at the headquarters of Rompeviento TV, located at 20 Milán Street, located in the Colonia Juárez neighborhood, in Mexico City. Tickets are 80 pesos and all proceeds will be divided amongst the nine displaced journalists.

Among them is Rafael Pineda, known as Rapé, a cartoonist from Veracruz who in September 2011 found a note on his car's windshield that said "Calladito," loosely translated to mean "be quiet." He decided to sell all his belongings and move to Mexico City. “It took time to start from zero and construct all that was necessary to live in a dignified manner," Rapé said.

Because of their experiences, other colleagues have had to resort to juggling on the streets, selling tacos and cell phones, and all other types of work in order to survive in the capital.

Without family ties or contacts, displaced journalists in Mexico City find themselves confronting their trauma alone, difficulty in finding housing, and tough competition for work with the city's media outlets, according to Turati.

An investigation by Mexican daily El Universal revealed that 50 journalists from other parts of the country found refuge in the capital between 2010 and 2012, but the lack of support forced them to return to their original place despite the risks against their lives.

In some cases, correspondents for national media outlets temporarily move to their newsrooms in Mexico City after receiving threats, but that move often provides insufficient protection.  “They don't receive psychological support despite them seeing how some of their colleagues get killed or kidnapped," explained Turati. “They become problems in the newsrooms and they end up quitting, she added.

Both the federal and municipal government have programs to support threatened journalists, although the help is insufficent due to paperwork and bureaucratic prerequisites, complained Rapé. "Official assistance only makes those desparate become more desparate."

The cartoonist assures that his humorous work helps him "but I don't know if I am emotionally recovered," he said. In addition, he still takes precautions each time he visits his native state of Veracruz, considered the most dangerous place for the press in Mexico. “I don't go frequently but when I go, I do it with colleagues in an announced manner," he explains.

The auction will include works by Mexican cartoonists including Naranjo, Boligán, Patricio, El Fisgón, Helguera, Hernández and Rapé.


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.