Mexico’s Journalists Under Attack By Drug Mafias
A Knight Foundation-Cabot Prize conference
Graduate School of Journalism
October 16, 2008
Nowhere in the Americas is it more dangerous to practice journalism than in Mexico. Mexican journalists--indeed that nation’s entire civil society – are under assault from organized drug gangs who have been gaining control of portions of Mexico, especially along its border with the United States. These thugs have killed and bribed their way into control of local police and government – and have silenced the press in the process.
Twenty-one journalists have been killed in Mexico since 2000, seven of them in direct reprisal for their work, according to New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Since 2005, seven others have gone missing. Most of the rest have been cowed into the silence of self-censorship by years of grenade attacks on news rooms, strafing by automatic weapons fire, outright murder and abductions.The situation of Mexico’s journalists cries out for attention.
Assaults on the press mirror a rising trend of drug-related violence in Mexico. In 2004, there were 1,200 deaths; by the end of 2007, 2,270. In only the first half of 2008, 3,153 Mexicans have lost their lives -- nearly 270 of them Mexican police officers, including increasing numbers of top law enforcement officials. But corrupt police and government officials also contribute to the problem, acting as enforcers for the drug gangs.
Underlying this problem is the role of the U.S., whose insatiable appetite for narcotics fuels the drug business in Mexico. These drug mafias of Mexico gangs grow stronger and richer as the Latin American drug trade has moved from Colombia to Mexico. Analysts estimate 70 to 90 percent of all narcotics imported into the U.S. comes across the border with Mexico. This situation cries out for more attention, especially from the U.S. press.
The Columbia Journalism School is holding a conference to to increase awareness of the threat to Mexican journalists and increase cooperation among those who are trying to help them. Sponsored by the Knight Foundation, which has a strong commitment to press freedom, the conference brings many journalists here from Mexico to provide a safe venue for discussion and to meet their U.S. counterparts.
Panelists and guests include journalists, government officials and academics from Mexico, Colombia and the United States.