Mexico is considered one of the most dangerous countries to practice journalism. The problem of violence against the media is aggravated by impunity, even though a special prosecutor was established to handle these cases. According to La Crónica de Hoy, Plascencia said only four percent of federal investigations into attacks against journalists have been prosecuted. The rest remain in impunity.( Map pinpoints attacks..Paz, Buela)
Rapporteurs for freedom of expression from the United Nations and Organization of American States denounced the Mexican state's slow response to prosecute those that commit crimes against journalists. In the presentation of the report, "Freedom of Expression in Mexico," both organizations noted that violence against journalists in the country was the worst in the continent and the fifth overall in the world, reported EFE.
"It appears that government and security authorities simply don't react, creating an environment of hostility against journalists and greater risk," said Frank La Rue, United Nations rapporteur for freedom of expression during a video conference in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 24.
To date, 13 journalists have been killed in 2011, according to the Associated Press. Since 2000, 70 have died and 13 are missing, according to several press organizations.
La Rue said Mexico cannot stop investigating journalists' deaths because there are too many cases, noting that this compounds hostility against journalists, according to the newspaper La Jornada.
The creation of the Special Prosecutor for crimes against freedom of expression within the Mexican Attorney General's office was an important step but six years after its creation, there have not been significant results, according to the blog Avance MX. According to the rapporteurs, the prosecutor does not have the financial resources or the personnel necessary to adequately address the problem.
"We don't know of any examples" of the government stopping the violence against journalists that work in Mexico, said Catalina Botero, Inter American Commission of Human Rights rapporteur for freedom of expression.
"Safeguarding the freedom of expression is not only compatible with the fight against crime, it's essential, because its free exercise denounces criminal activity," said Botero, according to the AFP.
La Rue also attacked the law approved by the state of Veracruz penalizing the spread of false rumors over social networks and other media. "The use of blogs and tweets to share information can be very important in a country. (It's important) to not fall into temptation and criminalize this expression," the rapporteur said, according to CNN México.
and the response today...
A commission formed by the Mexican Chamber of Deputies approved the federal government to investigate crimes against journalists with the cases to be tried in local courts, reported the newspaper El Universal.
The announcement was made a day after rapporteurs from the United Nations and Organization of American States presented a report on freedom of expression in Mexico blasting the country's slow response to end the culture of impunity surrounding crimes against the press. Mexico's chronic violence against journalists has earned it the dubious honor of most dangerous country in Latin America for press workers, according to several organizations.
The Mexican and Central American office of Article 19 also denounced the Mexican government's scant attempts to address impunity for crimes against journalists at the 143rd Assembly of the Inter American Commission of Human Rights in Washington, D.C., reported the website Ciudadanía Express.
The organization criticized a lack of protocol and specific strategy for responsible organizations to investigate killings and disappearances of journalists, and the tendency to discredit journalists before the investigation begins. There is also no mechanism for journalists under threat to solicit protection, reported Cuidadanía Express.
So far in 2011, 13 journalists have been killed in Mexico and only two of the cases have been solved.
Mexico City - After a news report detailing the capture of several members of Mexico's ruthless Zetas drug gang ran on television in the northern city of Monterrey, the reporter's phone rang.
"My job isn't to warn you, it's to kill you. If you carry on with this, we're going to run into each other," the anonymous voice warned just days after the story aired.
"They knew everything about me, where I lived, how many kids I have and their names," said the journalist, who asked not to be identified by name.
For the last two years, northeastern Mexico's Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas states have been ravaged by bloody battles between rival drug gangs and horrific massacres of migrants. But don't expect to read much about it in the local media.
Reporters in large swathes of the country now censor their own coverage, fearful of reprisals by ruthless drug gangs and corrupt police on their payroll.
They say they are also intimidated by military units that were deployed to fight the drug gangs and have been accused of human rights abuses against drug suspects.
A tally kept by the Committee to Protect Journalists shows attacks on reporters have intensified since President Felipe Calderon launched an army-led crackdown against drug gangs at the end of 2006. More than 40,000 people across Latin America's second-biggest economy have died in the conflict.
At least Mexican 42 journalists have been murdered over the past five years, according to the CPJ, making it more deadly than Afghanistan.
Mexico's human rights commission puts the number at 50.
Attacks and threats against the media are not new in Mexico but they are spreading to new areas, sparking fears that press freedom is in jeopardy.
"We're doing survival journalism, walking a fine line," said Ismael Bojorquez, director of the weekly Rio Doce, a newspaper in the northwestern state of Sinaloa, the heartland of Mexican drug trafficking and home to a cartel of the same name.
Bojorquez was the only one of several journalists interviewed by Reuters who consented to give his name.
Some reporters fear danger within their own ranks. Cartels have enticed journalists onto their payrolls to publish favorable stories or be their eyes and ears inside newsrooms.
Experts say some of the journalists killed may have been involved with the cartels and either upset the local bosses or were targeted by a rival gang.
NO SEARCH WARRANT
The drugs war raging along the border with the United States has become Mexico's biggest news story.
But the gangs in Tamaulipas, south of Texas, where the Gulf cartel and Zetas are fighting a bloody turf war, are so powerful that media outlets there have drastically curbed their crime coverage to avoid reprisals.
"The Zetas and Gulf cartel are the most important thing happening in Tamaulipas today, but (the media) don't touch it," said Michael O'Connor, the CPJ's spokesman in Mexico.
"Organized crime is in control of the state's politics, police and the justice system," he said, explaining the penetrating reach of the cartels.
As they hunker down to work, reporters face an increasingly impossible task.
They often receive threats to hush up the capture of drug suspects because it makes the cartels look weak.
At the same time, gangs regularly alert the media to spectacular killings carried out by their hitmen. They often leave messages for their rivals on the bodies of their victims and then pressure local journalists to transmit those threats.
There is virtually no local news coverage of the violence in Tamaulipas, even when rival cartels go at each other in fierce street battles.
Reporters say the intimidation from soldiers is escalating and in some areas is as bad as, or even worse than, the pressure from gang leaders.
"With no search warrant and in a car with its plates blacked out, soldiers arrived at my office ... and tried to take cameras and everything," said a journalist from Nuevo Laredo, just over the Rio Grande from Texas in Tamaulipas.
News reports that do surface about violence in the state are frequently sourced to U.S. media across the border, in Texan towns like McAllen and Brownsville.
The Mexican government has set up a special prosecutor's office to investigate the attacks against journalists but it has been largely ineffective with most of the killings still unsolved. The prosecutor's office declined requests for an interview.
The most recent victim was Yolanda Ordaz, a crime reporter of some 20 years experience at Notiver, a daily from the coastal state of Veracruz, east of Mexico City.
Her decapitated body was dumped in front of the offices of another local paper. In June, another Notiver journalist, Miguel Angel Lopez, was murdered along with his wife and younger son.
As the attacks on the media spread, journalists in areas previously untouched by violence have begun changing their routines and censoring their own copy -- an ominous sign of shrinking press freedoms.
"You're watching out that nothing happens to you when you work," said a radio reporter based in Cuernavaca, a city some 50 km (30 miles) south of Mexico City, who moved house after he was kidnapped by drug gangs and later ransomed for $10,000.
"You make mention of a certain instance of violence, but without interpreting it or going into detail," he said.
notice attributed to an organised crime gang left next to where Macias' body was found.
The brutal killing of a third person in apparent retaliation for reporting crime on social networks has raised fears of further censorship of Mexico's drug violence.
The beheading of journalist Maria Elizabeth Macias on September 24 came two weeks after the half-naked bodies of a man and a woman were found hanging from a bridge also in the northeastern border city of Nuevo Laredo, along with messages threatening people who report drug violence on the Internet.
The use of social networks to spread information in parts of Mexico is often a matter of survival -- without a political agenda as in China or the Arab revolutions -- because newspapers no longer dare to report on drug violence.
"In the context of violence against the press present in Mexico ... social networks ... break the silence imposed on journalists," the Mexican branch of the Article 19 rights watchdog said in a statement dated September 27. "That's why it's urgent to guarantee the security of those who use those tools."
'If you tell the truthm they simply kill you."
Around 10 journalists have been killed this year in Mexico, according to different media watchdogs, alongside eruptions of violence amid a military crackdown on drug gangs that started in 2006. Officials and media reports blame more than 40,000 deaths on drug violence since 2006.
Press freedom groups condemned the killing of Macias, whose decapitated body and head were found near a message citing posts she wrote on a local anti-crime website, "Nuevo Laredo en Vivo."
Tamaulipas state authorities said a criminal group had claimed reponsibility for the crime while news reports said the message was signed 'ZZZZ,' using the letter associated with the Zetas drug gang.
Macias, 39, worked for daily newspaper Primera Hora but her Internet posts were on public forums where locals seek information about gang fights in the area.
Mike O'Connor, Mexico representative for the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said it was unclear if her killing was directly related to her Internet activities.
But he added: "there hasn't been trustworthy journalism in Tamaulipas for a long time. Reporters say that if you tell the truth, they simply kill you."
The social network
As social networks have become a vital crutch to citizens in violent areas, authorities have expressed concern about their potential to spread fear.
The government of the eastern state of Veracruz last month arrested a man and a woman and accused them of terrorism for spreading rumors of attacks, which turned out to be false, on Twitter and Facebook.
The pair were finally freed last week without being charged, but state authorities also passed a new law -- which rights groups have criticised -- to punish the crime of spreading false messages which "disturb public order."
Even as the law was announced, local social networks ran warnings about the daylight dumpings of 49 bodies on roads around the port city of Veracruz last week.
Conversations on the ant-crime website Nuevo Laredo en Vivo's Twitter account on September 27 highlighted how local press had ignored the killing of Macias.
"She did nothing more than tell the truth," lamented @brujitaaaaaa.
Note Message found by her body translated:
"Nuevo Laredo en Vivo and social networking sites, I'm The Laredo Girl, and I'm here because of my reports, and yours," the message read. "For those who don't want to believe, this happened to me because of my actions, for believing in the army and the navy. Thank you for your attention, respectfully, Laredo Girl...ZZZZ."
PhotosBelow: Funeral of 21 year old El DIario Reporter Luis Santiago; Body of Nena, blogger brutally killed
The way I see it.... the more people that don't like me, the less people I have to please
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