Drug traffickers increase efforts to control Mexican news

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  • August 2, 2010

By Ingrid Bachmann

Javier Canales and Alejandro Hernández, two of the four journalists kidnapped by drug gangs in Durango state, were freed in a rescue operation Saturday, AFP reports. Cameraman Héctor Gordoa was freed Thursday and La Cronica de Hoy reports that the journalist Óscar Solís had been released last Tuesday.

Mexican authorities said the Sinaloa drug cartel, led by the billionaire Joaquín “El Chapo” (shorty) Guzmán, was behind the kidnappings, which were done to make the media broadcast “criminal messages” to the public, CNN reports.

The abduction has generated international condemnation and journalists have scheduled a protest in Mexico City this Saturday (Aug. 7).

The drug trafficking-related violence is unprecedented and has already left its mark on Mexican journalism, especially in terms of the killings and resulting self censorship. However, these newest attempts to control coverage have put media workers in the middle of an information war.

The Committee to Protect Journalists’ Carlos Lauría told the Washington Post that the “[drug] cartels are now telling reporters what they can and cannot print, and the drug organizations themselves are the content providers.”

Beyond demanding that authorities protect journalists, several media outlets have joined together to call for a united front against the problem, publishing a manifesto, which warns that even though the kidnapped journalists were freed, the threat to the press remains the same.

Similarly, many international groups have urged the government and media outlets to develop security and risk prevention protocols. “There isn’t a policy in Mexico to efficiently deal with the risks that journalists face or to identify and punish those responsible” for the attacks on the press, said José Miguel Vivanco, president of the Human Rights Watch’s Americas Division, quoted by El Universal.

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.