MEXICO: Drug cartel targets woman journalist through online social media
“These murders seem to represent an alarming strategy to intimidate internet users to stop communicating information related to violence”, said Amnesty International following a report release on the death of Macías. “The fact that at least eight communicators have been murdered this year indicates the vulnerability of media professionals and the lack of real impact of measures to prevent and punish the aggressions against journalists”, continued Amnesty.
Creating a climate of fear and widespread censorship throughout many local in-print news outlets as violence continues, reports on drug trafficking crime, collusion and corruption in the region have almost come to a complete halt. But the citizens of Mexico want to know more about what’s happening in their region. Instead of reading in-print newspapers to get the news many are committed to getting it via social media.
The problem is that social media is proving to be more than just an opportunity for muckrakers to speak the truth. As cartels find and target journalists, bloggers, facebook and forum members online who report or comment about drug related crime and crime cartels it is expected that the violence will continue or accelerate.
Like the rest of the world Mexico City is jumping on the band wagon in using digital interactive tools that are available to the public online. Mapa Delictivo is an online interactive map that reports crimes across the city in real time.
“…with the traditional media silenced, Mexicans have gone online in search of news. But now that looks risky too… Although many sites are anonymous, the mobsters seem to be getting better at tracking down contributors, even outside of Mexico”, said The Economist in a recent September report. “Last year two Mexican students at Columbia University in New York set up a website to track violence in Monterrey, another troubled city in Mexico’s north. The project was cancelled after the site’s administrator, based in the United States, received a threatening phone call”.
Before Elisabeth Macías left her office for the night on September 23 she posted one last comment on her website ‘Nuevo Laredo en Vivo’. “Hunting rats if you see where they run, denounce them”, Macías said.
Ten days earlier, on September 13th, two young internet users (a man and a woman), who allegedly informed two Mexican cartel watch blogs some details surrounding criminal activity, were found murdered next to threatening messages signed Z (thought to be the signature of Los Zetas).
Their bodies were hanged from a bridge in the same city of Nuevo Laredo where journalist Elisabeth Macías lost her life. A more recent case of a beheaded man’s body found with a similar message also occurred recently on November 9th, 2011. He is believed to be another administrator of the chat forum Macías used to chat and post news.
According to Amnesty International these murders and the murder of Elisabeth Macías are a clear threat to social network users who live in the most violent regions of Mexico.
Following Macías death, few local newspapers featured the story. Not even the daily newspaper Primera Hora, where she worked, mentioned her on their sunday editorial. There was only a brief report on the “discovery of an unknown woman, beheaded”. The Tamaulipas Government, through the Justice Department, confirmed the murder the night before.
As the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) declared: “Throughout Mexico, but especially in the north, unrelenting violence by criminal groups has terrorized the local press into silence. In the face of this rampant censorship and a near-complete void of information, Mexican citizens, and many journalists, are turning to social media and online forums to share news and inform each other… The murder of the Mexican journalist in the city of Nuevo Laredo on Saturday marks a potential watershed: It is the first case CPJ has documented in which someone was murdered in direct retaliation for journalism posted on social media”.
According to recent CPJ statistics, 888 journalists worldwide have been killed since 1992. Of these, 60 journalists and 4 media workers have been murdered in Mexico. 93 percent were male and 7 percent female. 44 percent were threatened beforehand; 32 percent were taken captive and 20 percent were tortured.
Internet and social media provide no longer a safe space for free press in some parts of Mexico, it doesn’t matter if you’re a man, a woman, young or old; if you publish information on traditional media or via internet.
“I wouldn’t go to Mexico now. I don’t think its any more dangerous for an American than a Mexican, but the drug violence is so random everyone is at risk”, says a member of an online motorcycle riders forum only four weeks ago.
“…ultimately, we feel unprotected in the face such atrocities and we are fearful, because this war has now cost the lives of victims in cyperspace, which is our element”, says a November 9, 2011 statement by the Mexico Internet Community in their new Social Media Manifesto.
Lydia Cacho Ribeiro is an Investigative Journalist and recipient of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize 2008. She is also a woman who refuses to be a victim, or a martyr, but actively struggles against corruption and repression in her home country of Mexico. The Global Forum on Freedom of Expression, in Oslo, early June 2009, gave her a new platform to speak on the subject of freedom of expression for women journalists.
For more information on this topic:
- “Silence or Death in Mexico’s Press – Crime, Violence, and Corruption Are Destroying the Country’s Journalism“, CPJ – Committee to Protect Journalists, September 2010;
- “Social Media Manifesto against Mexican drug cartels“, Bright – Organising Media Against Organised Crime website;
- “Mexico’s Ferocious Zetas Cartel Reigns Through Fear“, NPR – National Public Radio, October 2009;
- Current data on murdered journalists – CPJ – Committee to Protect Journalists website.
Additional information for this story has been provided by The Economist magazine, CPJ – Committee to Protect Journalists, Amnesty International, UNESCO, La Jornada, Washington Post World, (U.S.) Congressional Research Service, NPR – National Public Radio and Foreign Policy magazine.
WNN correspondent in Mexico, Cynthia Arvide, is a freelance journalist who specializes in women issues, her stories have been published in Marie Claire magazine, the Latin American edition. She also writes human interest stories, travel features and investigative reports about diverse cultural and social issues in Mexico and every country has the opportunity to visit.
©2011 Women News Network – WNN
No part of this article release may be reproduced without prior permissions from WNN.
Short URL: http://womennewsnetwork.net/?p=12509