MEXICO: Global press speaks out on recent murder of woman journalist Yolanda Ordaz
Deborah Mazon – WNN Features
(WNN) VERACRUZ: International members of the media and advocates around the globe speak with alarm and concern about the death of Mexican journalist Yolanda Ordaz de la Cruz and the dangers for women journalists throughout Mexico
As the body of Mexico crime reporter Yolanda Ordaz de la Cruz (Yolanda Ordaz) was found behind the offices of the newspaper Imagen de Veracruz in the twilight morning on Tuesday, 26 July, in the city of Boca del Rio, near the gulf of Veracruz, a sharp and dangerous message was sent to all reporters who cover crime in Mexico.
With a clear and gruesome message meant to reach journalists throughout Mexico and the world, Ordaz’s body was found decapitated. A note with a short written message was found along with her dead body saying, “Friends also betray.” It was signed with the name “Carranza.”
Reported missing since Sunday night after she told relatives she was leaving to cover a news story for her employers at the Veracruz news daily Notiver, Ordaz never returned home.
“We are appalled at the spiraling violence against journalists in Mexico,” said director for IPI – the International Press Institute, Alison Bethel McKenzie. “The situation appears to be out of control, and the killers of journalists are operating with impunity,” she continued.
Following the beat on many investigative stories that included drug cartels and detailed police crime reports, Ordaz as a staff journalist for Notiver had recently received personal death threats.
She was also investigating the details in the recent 20 June murder of one of her Notiver co-workers, Miguel Ángel López Velasco, who was assistant editorial director and columnist for the paper. López Velasco had been shot to death with his wife and son in their home only weeks preceding Ordaz’s murder.
According to the Associated Press, the signature (Carranza) left in the note found on the body of Ordaz is the same name used by Veracruz traffic policeman, Juan Carlos Carranza Saavedra, who is now considered a high level suspect in the López Velasco murder. It has not been determined whether or not this note has been fraudulently signed by someone else who may be responsible for the Ordaz’ murder.
“The murder of any journalist is not only heinous but diminishes the society in which they live,” says Lisa B. Anderson, consulting editor for Thomson Reuters Foundation TrustLaw Women. “The gruesome murder of veteran Mexican reporter Yolanda Ordaz de la Cruz—the fourth such murder of a journalist in Veracruz this year—underscores the dangers increasingly faced by journalists around the world and particularly in Mexico, where the murders of 13 journalists remain unsolved this year, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.”
The murder and attack of women journalists is not a local problem in Mexico, it is a serious ongoing global crime where journalist are at risks worldwide in experiencing many forms of violence for exposing criminals. Women journalists, because of their gender, are also specifically vulnerable to sexual assault as a form of intimidation.
“…Where my experience is from, violence against Women journalists comes from an angry public (especially in small island communities) just as much as it comes from with the newsrooms. The threat of violence, both physical and sexual, is one that many women in media are exposed to in Melanesia where conflict situations and human security is an issue of goverance and newsgathering,” said New Zealand journalist Lisa Williams-Lahari, Regional coordinator of Media for Democracy and Human Rights in the Pacific, sponsored by the IFJ – International Federation of Journalists.
Williams-Lahiri has worked many years as an advocate for transparency and freedom of the press in the Asia Pacific region. She is originally from the Samoan-Cook Islands.
“Any violence against journalists is appalling,” says Joseph Mayton, journalist and founder of the Egypt based news network Bikya Masr and part of the WNN news desk in Cairo. “As someone who knows first-hand how difficult it is for women reporters to cover the stories in their countries, the murder of a journalist hits hard. Here in Egypt, for example, the daily harassment women face is only confounded when that woman is a journalist,” continued Mayton.
In 2007, thirty-five-year-old Afghan radio journalist Zakia Zaki was shot seven times and killed while she slept with her three year old son. While her son was not injured, he and her other children are also considered victims to the violence that has been directed at Afghanistan journalists for years. Zaki was the founder of Kabul radio station Sada-e-Sulh (Peace Radio) based north of Kabul that broadcasted educational programming throughout Parvan province before it closed after Zaki’s death. Zaki was also a school teacher as well as a developed radio jockey.
“She believed in freedom of expression, that’s why she was killed,” said Rahimullah Samander, leader of the Independent Association of Afghan Journalists and head of Azadi Radio in Kabul. Along with seven other murder cases of journalists in Afghanistan over the last ten years, Zakia Zaki’s case is still unsolved and without prosecution.
“Women journalists who are reporting in regions where criminals go unchecked and unprosecuted are in particular danger,” says Lys Anzia, founder and editor-at-large for Women News Network – WNN.
Now women journalists in Mexico are facing increasing dangers as crime rings tighten their grip on the press. Some journalists (both male and female) who are in a direct and close line of danger are choosing to leave their home regions to seek safety elsewhere, because of ongoing personal threats. Others are standing their ground but losing long-standing jobs with newspapers where they work because the risks of danger to themselves and the paper are now considered “too great.”
“Women journalists in Mexico face a double vulnerability covering the constant outbreak of violence that spills buckets of blood all too frequently,” says National Project Director for Media Equity Collaborative Ariel Doughtery. “While indiscriminately male or female reporters can equally be murdered for reporting on the perpetual criminal offenses, female journalists can additionally become sexually victimized while covering the disappearance of women, migrants and others.”
“Due to the violence against reporters, local and national media groups are using outsourcing companies to subcontract journalists. This allows them to avoid legal responsibilities such as medical, legal or even funeral benefits if an attack or an assassination occurs,” said Mexican journalist Emilio Gutiérrez Soto, a co-recipient of the 2010 International Press Freedom Award by CJFE – Canadian Journalist for Free Expression.
Because of the mounting dangers against journalists in Mexico, Gutiérrez Soto has left his country and now lives in exile in the U.S.
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