Drug-cartels kill journalists, says CPJ. But what about the Government?

left_cpj_logoDrug-fuelled violence against the press in Mexico is spreading. A report released yesterday by the Committee to Protect Journalists says more journalists are being killed or persecuted whilst covering the drug trade and the powerful Gulf and Sinaloa cartels in the country.

But the research from the NGO fails to address the high levels of violence perpetrated against journalists by Governmental networks that are being reported up by other organisations in Mexico.

Government forces are allegedly responsible for the lion’s share of attacks against journalists in the Mexico. That’s according to a report jointly produced by Article19, CENCOS and Fundacion Manuel Buendia (click here for the PDF) on press freedom in Mexico, reportedly the most dangerous country in the world for journalists after Iraq.

Speaking to MexicoReporter.com, Dario Ramirez, the head of Article 19’s programme in Mexico said that it suits the Mexican Government that there is a general perception that narco-traffickers and organized crime are the main causes for the record-high levels of violence against journalists in Mexico.

“Let’s not fool ourselves and say that the perpetrators of the violence are the groups of organized crime, as the government wants us to believe,” said Ramirez last month.

The latest research from the CPJ adheres to the theory that the drug trade carries the main responsibility for the high death toll of journalists in Mexico, and in a way, let’s the Mexican Government off the hook somewhat.

A New Front in Mexico,” explains how drug-related reprisals against journalists, which have historically been largely confined to the northern states of Baja California, Chihuahua, and Tamaulipas, have spread further south to the central state of Michoacán.

The CPJ report explains the forces at work within the journalistic community in Mexico, where self-censorship is increasingly being used as a survival strategy by reporters covering organized crime networks and the drug trade.

That’s no doubt true, but the report doesn’t pay adequate attention to findings by other freedom of speech organisations which allege that state authorities remain the main perpetrators of the attacks, rather than organized crime networks.

The Authorities commit 42% of the attacks, with 24% carried out by police, 12% by government employees and 2% by government institutions, according to the Article 19 / CENCOS / Manuel Buendia study, with only 11 per cent of violence coming from drug cartels in the country. Although the Federal Government of Felipe Calderon is perceived to be taking a more hands-off approach to the press than his predecessors, the same cannot be said of State Governors.

There is little doubt that organized crime bears a huge responsibility for the high levels of violence against journalists in Mexico. But that’s only a small part of a much bigger picture that has to be understood if the problem is to be tackled effectively.

The drug cartels exist in a political, economic and cultural system in which corruption and poverty is rife, impunity almost certain and collusion between the authorities and criminal factions commonplace.

Until we look at the big picture, we don’t get much closer to really understanding how we might stem the force of this terrible trend.

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3 Responses

  1. We are contacting the following key legislators. Please do so too and arrange for meetings with them in their district offices.

    Asking them to ensure Condi Rice testifies at November 14th full hearing;

    That Plan Mexico is pealed away from Iraq Appropriations bill to stand and fall on its own merits;

    that questions about the murder of brad will and many others in oaxaca and atenco are asked and answered satisfactorally;

    Tom Lantos, Chair, Committee on Foriegn Affairs: 650-342-0300
    P 415-566-5257 San Francisco

    Eliot Engel, Chair, Subcommittee on Western Hemispheric Affairs: (202) 225-2464 and (914) 699-4100

    Nita Lowey (Chair, appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations): (202) 225-6506 and (914) 428-1707

    For NGOs that are making questionable noise:

    If you share these concerns regarding Committee to Protect Journalist’s tepid mention the role of the Mexican state in the violence against journalists, please contact the following people there. You could mention how this plays into the hands of those asking for ‘drug war’ Plan Mexico package which has an institutional reform component. Of course, more $ thrown at a corrupt govt. won’t be helpful in addressing those problems.

    CPJ: (212) 465.1004
    Joel Simon, Exc. Dir.: jsimon(at)cpj. (dot) org 212
    Carlos Lauria, latin america director: clauria(at)cpj (dot) org
    M. Salazar, l.a. associate: msalazar (at) cpj (dot) org
    This may make a good story!?

    While you’re at it, you could contact two organizations which seem to be underplaying the risks of Plan Mexico despite human rights being a major stated concern of their. The Washington Offfice on Latin America (WOLA) and the Latin America Working Group (LAWG)

    Maureen Meyer at WOLA (mmeyer (at) wola (dot) org or 202.797.2171) and Jennifer Johnson at LAWG (jjohnson(at) (dot) org or 202.546.7010)

    They do good work but have neither taken a stand against Plan Mexico nor for what they consider beneficial elements to be presented as a stand alone appropriations item (i.e. the criminal justice reform components) without all the lethal power being provided to the Mexican govt.

    LAWG’s website (http://lawg.org/) has as a main feature its report on lack of enforcement of human rights conditions on u.s. aid in Plan Colombia. What makes them think Plan Mexico would be any different?

    The WOLA website (http://wola.org/) boosts Plan Mexico with a headline “Mexico Aid package Should Improve Civilian Institutions.” This headline is followed by another: “WOLA Expresses Doubts on Mexico, Central America Aid Package.” But the doubts are ‘concerns about lack of details and recommendations that the “civilian control structures” be the recipients of the aid. Despite a horrendous record of supporting impunity for military and police abuses, WOLA’s exec. director Joy Olson lends her weight to the aid package which includes blackhawk helicopters and increasing surveillance capability (surely to be used against Mexican activists, dissidents etc.). Her edifying testimony during the House Subcommitee on Western Hemispheric Affairs hearing on Plan Mexico (Oct. 25th) is also posted.

    WOLA: Olson echos bailey’s concern with hampering the aid w/some kind of oversight/certification
    regime. This is considered hypocritical that the u.s. congress would want to know
    if efforts against drugs are the real outcome of their forking over billions of
    $. (Hmmm.);helicopters must work; and expect (and then what) mexican military not
    to appreciate end-use monitoring. (Thanks, Joy!); She notes that some previously trained forces (the ZETAS) joined the drug
    cartels! great; urges that police reforms must be comprehensive and institutional; she doesn’t
    want the military involved FOR THE LONG TERM.
    she calls for non-corrupt police and justice system but for fight against money
    laundering (but not as part of this bill or condition of it).why not before pouring
    $$$ into the problem?

    http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/110/ols102507.htm

    notice the low-ball figure of $500 million when in fact the package is being roled
    out as a multi-year Plan Colombia-style $7 billion dollar package:

    http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/5239642.html

    US would poney up $1.5 billion and the Mexican govt. would pay $5.5 billion over
    several years. (Guess they’ll be shorter library hours in Mexico too).

    Give her a call if you like.

  2. This is great. They are a responsive organization. Did Carlos specifically address concerns that federal govt. complicity in murders of journalists is underplayed in their most recent statement re. Mexico?

    I’ve been reading that some other organizations are also suggesting that the civilian Federal Mexican govt. needs Plan Mexico $/training (i.e. that they are not part of the climate of impunity for or participants in crimes and cover-ups for those crimes). I think this is a (false) distinction that the boosters of Plan Mexico appreciate and want to exploit.

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