Women at the forefront of investigative journalism in Mexico

It seems lately that every time an international organization recognizes a Mexican journalist for their work, the accolade goes to a woman. There is, for example, Pulitzer Prize-winning Alejandra Xanic Von Bertrab, or journalist Marcela Turati, who recently was honored by the Harvard Nieman Fellows for her reports on victims of organized crime. The editor of the weekly Zeta, Adela Navarro, who took over the leadership of the magazine after her predecessor was assassinated in 2004, was recently named as one of Foreign Policy magazine's 100 Global Thinkers. Let's not forget Lydia Cacho, who has received numerous threats for her work uncovering a network of pedophiles in Mexico; reporters Sandra Rodríguez Nieto and Rocío Idalia Gallegos, from newspaper Diario de Juárez; Anabel Hernández, who lives under protection due to her investigations into organized crime; as well as Ana Lilia Pérez, exiled for her writings on corruption within the Mexican oil company Pemex. And the list goes on. There is even "Lucy," the journalist who recently revealed to have anonymously founded Blog del Narco.

Lydia Cacho.

Nowadays women make up an important part of the media landscape in Mexico. According to the a study by the organization Communication and Information for Women (or CIMAC in Spanish), there are more women journalists in radio and television than men. Women wrote a third of the stories published in Mexico's three leading national dailies, while men wrote 42% of them (the rest were from news agencies who authors' gender were not identified). And even though the distribution is still unequal, more and more women are taking up managerial positions. Almost 15% of leadership positions in the country's media are held by women, like in the case of Carmen Lira, director of La Jornada.

But women are not just holding more positions in the Mexican media, they are increasingly the ones reporting on large-scale investigations. “Their reporting really gets to the sore spots and the most urgent problems," reporter María Elvira García tells the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. She also authored Ellas tecleando su historia ("Women Typing their History" in English), a book that compiles stories from 14 women journalists in Mexico.

“They want to report in order to reveal things because they believe that is what they should do”, she added. In her opinion, women tend to focus on social issues such as sexual abuse, child abuse, injustices, and corruptions, and bring them to the forefront of the media's attention. Women reporters also push for their works to be published despite often having doors close on them. Many women are authors of books that reveal corruption or organized crime.

But they are also targets for threats, layoffs, lawsuits and other problems due to their reporting.

“To leave my country is the price for not accepting bribes nor staying quiet about investigations that I have done," said Ana Lilia Pérez, author of the books Camisas azules, manos negras ("Blue Shirts, Black Hands" in English) and El cartel negro "(The Black Cartel") in a recent interview with the Knight Center.

Although names of men make up most of the list of the 71 assassinated reporters in Mexico, it was the brutal 2012 killing of Regina Martínez, correspondent for Proceso of Veracruz, which triggered the most recent movement calling for an end to the attacks against the Mexican press. Martínez wrote investigations about corruption and abuses of power in the violent state of Veracruz. A year earlier, journalist María Elizabeth Macías was decapitated due to her anonymous revealings on the internet about organized crime in Nuevo Laredo, and María Esther Aguilar Casimbe, a reporter for Michoacan news site Cambio, is still missing since November 11, 2009.

“If in Mexico today women are still being persecuted, threatened, and killed, it is because because they are the one who are doing the best reporting, which is needed for our country so we can open our eyes and see who are the persons that govern us (...), " García wrote for the website Clases de Periodismo.

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.