Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Journalism in the US and Mexico

Translation by Fousesquawk

As a frequent critic of the US media, I am naturally paying close attention to the coverage of the riots going on this week as a result of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Especially given the theme of this article, I want to point out that I salute the courage of the numerous reporters who are going onto the streets to report the happenings-even if I might disagree with some of the editorializing going on. In short, they are courageous individuals, and I salute them for that even if I disagree with some of the things they are saying.

But this week, I have been wondering about journalism in this country as opposed to journalism in Mexico, our neighbor just to the south. What sparked my thinking is an excellent crime drama series I have been watching on Netflix entitled, "Tijuana". It is in Spanish with English sub-titles, well acted and well produced. The plot involves a courageous group of Tijuana journalists who do investigative reporting on government corruption and organized crime cartels. Their small newspaper is called Frente Tijuana. As a result of their work, their lives are in constant danger. 

I know the story is fiction, that there is a certain dramatization, and all that. In addition, I am no expert on Mexican journalism. I cannot say they are more or less accurate, or more or less biased than their US counterparts. There may be much to be criticized in Mexico as well as here.

One thing is a fact, however. Mexico is a very dangerous place for journalists-at least those who try to report on corruption and the crime cartels. The statistics bear this out.

I have been doing some checking on the subject. This is a problem that goes back to the early decades of the 20th century, and the reasons for the danger have varied. Keep in mind that for much of the 20th century, Mexico was under dictatorial rule, and presidents like Porfirio Diaz didn't care for journalists questioning governance.

Concentrating on the years of the current century-specifically 2016-2020, I have found some interesting numbers regarding murders of Mexican journalists. It is alarming. Setting aside countries at war (Syria, Iraq), no country sees more murders of journalists than Mexico.

The below Spanish articles give numbers on the murders from 2016-present. There is also a number documented since 2000. What you see is the Spanish text of pertinent paragraphs I have selected followed by the English translation. For the Spanish readers, the entire source articles are linked.

De enero a septiembre 10 periodistas han sido asesinados. De julio a septiembre de 2016 la organización Artículo 19 registró un total de 88 agresiones a periodistas; un promedio de 29.3 ataques al mes, o casi uno por día.
-Animalpolitico, November 30, 2016

From January to September, 10 journalists have been murdered. From July to September 2016, the organization, Article 19, recorded a total of 88 assaults on journalists, an average of 29.3 attacks per month, or almost one per day.
La Federación Internacional de Periodistas, la organización de trabajadores de medios de comunicación más grande del mundo, denunció este sábado 30 de diciembre que al menos 81 reporteros fueron asesinados haciendo su trabajo este año, la mayoría en México, con 13 homicidios.

-Prensa, December 30, 2017

The International Federation of Journalists, the largest organization of workers in the communication media in the world, reported this Saturday, 30 December, that at least 81 reporters were murdered doing their job this year, the most in Mexico with 13 homicides.

Tanto en 2016 como en 2017, el mayor número de ataques mortales a periodistas se produjo en la región de Asia y el Pacífico, seguida por la de América Latina y el Caribe y los Estados Árabes en tercer lugar.
Dentro de este apartado, cabe destacar que México y Afganistán fueron las dos naciones más golpeadas por los asesinatos  de comunicadores con 26 y 24 decesos, respectivamente.
News-UN, November 2, 2018

Both in 2016 and 2017, the largest number of fatal attacks on journalists occurred in the region of Asia and the Pacific, followed by  Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Arab states in third place.
Within this section, it is worth noting that Mexico and Afghanistan were the two nations hardest hit by murders  of reporters with 26 and 24 deaths respectively.

México está considerado como el país más mortal para los periodistas sin contar zonas de guerra.
Desde el año 2000, al menos 144 periodistas han sido asesinados allí según la Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos de México (CNDH). Solo Afganistán y Siria han registrado más muertes de reporteros.
-BBC, February 28, 2019
Mexico is considered the most deadly country for journalists not counting war zones.
Since the year 2000, at least 144 journalists have been assassinated there according to the National Commission of Human Rights of Mexico (CNDH). Only Afghanistan and Syria have recorded more deaths of reporters.
En su informe anual sobre la violencia contra los periodistas publicado este martes, RSF destaca que México es el país del mundo con más asesinados (10) junto con Siria (10), que tiene la particularidad de que está en guerra desde hace más de ocho años

In its annual report on violence against journalists, published this Tuesday, RSF (Reporters Without Borders), points out that Mexico is the country with the most murders (10) along with Syria (10), which has the particularity of being at war over 8 years.
Ciudad de México. 18 de Mayo del 2020. – Con el asesinato del periodista Jorge Miguel Armenta Ávalos, dueño de los periódicos Tiempo y Medios Obson, suscitado ayer en Ciudad Obregón, Sonora, ya suman seis los comunicadores asesinados en lo que va de 2020 y 159 de 2000 a la fecha.

Mexico City, May 18, 2020- With the murder of the journalist Jorge Miguel Armenta Avalos, owner of the newspapers, Tiempo and Medios Obson, yesterday in Ciudad Obregon, Sonora, there are now 6 reporters murdered thus far in 2020 and 159 from 2000 to date.
-H En Directo, May 18, 2020

What is my point in all this? With all due respect to the US reporters on the streets in our major cities following the riots, and war correspondents, the point must be made that US journalists (who deal with politically-charged issues) do not face the same dangers as their Mexican counterparts. I know there are exceptions, and I specifically recall Victor Riesel, the New York columnist who courageously reported on the mob and union corruption. He was attacked with acid on the street one day in 1956 and blinded for life. He continued to write about the mob and the unions.

But American journalists can be grateful that they can investigate, report-at times inaccurately or unfairly- and not worry about being shot down on the street for what they say. The Chris Cuomos and Don Lemons of the world know they can sit in their studios and trash President Trump all night long and nobody is going to arrest them or shoot them. The worst thing that has happened to Cuomo is that some wise guy called him Fredo in a beer garden recently. And to be fair, Sean Hannity can trash former President Obama all he wants (and when Obama was president), without repercussion.

I should also acknowledge in these crazy times we live in that controversial or outspoken journalists could fall victim to some lone wacko. But can we really compare that with what has been happening in Mexico? Since 2000, 144 journalists murdered in Mexico. Can you imagine 144 journalists murdered in the US since 2000?

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