Silence Grows in Mexico
Last week, banners threatening the staff of the Zócalo newspaper group and signed by Z42, the street name of Zetas cartel leader Omar Trevino Morales, appeared in cities and towns around Coahuila State, Mexico. On Monday, Zócalo Saltillo published an editorial that read:
In view of the fact that there are no guarantees and no security for the practice of journalism, the Editorial Board of the Zócalo newspapers decided, as of this date, to stop publishing any information relating to organized crime….
The decision to suspend all information relating to organized crime is based on our responsibility to ensure the integrity and safety of our more than one thousand employees and their families, and our own.
It is our hope that true peace will prevail in our beloved country soon.
The editorial ran the same day a PEN International delegation was meeting with senior government officials in Mexico City to press for an end to impunity for attacks on journalists in the country, and drew a sharp line under the delegation’s warning that violence against media workers is not only exacting a terrible human toll but also destroying the right of all Mexican citizens to access information about the basic forces that are shaping their lives.
The free expression crisis in Mexico is the subject of the newest edition of Swedish PEN’s Dissident Blog, which went live on Tuesday night during an extraordinary event hosted by the Swedish Ambassador to Mexico. Eight of the issue’s contributors were on hand to read from their texts, including journalists Raymundo Pérez Arellano and Héctor Gordoa, whose harrowing accounts of their kidnappings in Tamaulipas and Durango framed the evening. Other highlights of both the issue and the event included Alicia Quiñones’s profile of the remarkable Diario de Juarez, one of several media outlets to be attacked by gunmen in recent weeks, and Luis Miguel Aguilar’s penetrating “El México de Juárez” (which you can also hear him reading here). And coming a week after Z42’s banners targeting Zócalo appeared in Coahuila, Jennifer Clement’s meditation on cartel messages and narco graffiti underscored both how relentless and repetitive such threats have become.
Eleven journalists have lost their lives in Mexico in the year since PEN last met with Mexican government officials. On December 1, 2012, Enrique Peña Nieto was inaugurated president of Mexico, marking the return of the Partido Revolucionario Institutional to power, and 100 days into his administration he seems intent on fulfilling his campaign pledge of a revitalized party; his attorney general and the Interior Ministry assured PEN’s delegation this week that they are implementing a plan to curb the violence against journalists. They did not, however, exhibit any enthusiasm for the one thing that will truly end the impunity: arrests and prosecutions of those who seek to suppress truths by murdering and intimidating journalists in Mexico.
We will be posting more on the PEN delegation to Mexico in the days ahead.