At Least 11 Journalists Killed This Year In Mexico
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Mexico has consistently been one of the most dangerous countries on Earth for journalists. But the most recent death of Nevith Condes Jaramillo, who ran El Observatorio del Sur website, has put this year on a course to be the deadliest on record. At least 11 journalists in Mexico have died so far this year according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. That reaches last year's total, and it's only August.
Javier Garza joins us now. He's a journalist and a consultant on journalist security. And he joins us from Torreon, Mexico. Thanks very much for being with us again, Mr. Garza.
JAVIER GARZA: Thank you, Scott. My pleasure.
SIMON: What can you tell us about Nevith Condes Jaramillo?
GARZA: The latest case - Nevith Condes reported for a local website in a region that is disputed by drug cartels on the border between Mexico State and the state of Michoacan. So it is not surprising that another - yet another journalist has been killed in that region. It was also very moving to see that practically the whole town of Tejupilco, where he worked, took to the streets for his funeral, which meant that...
GARZA: ...He had some important local impact. And that is something that we should not lose sight of - is that the journalists that are being targeted in Mexico are local journalists doing the work that no other news organization, the large news organizations are not doing, which is expose...
GARZA: ...Corruption, expose crime, expose government negligence in the localities and cities and towns across Mexico, and we are being deprived of those voices.
SIMON: I gather that cartel violence is also growing in Mexico. Do you see these two facts as related?
GARZA: Well, yes, at some points. But organized crimes is not the main aggressor of journalists. Every reporter will tell you that the main aggressor of journalists, the main attacker of journalists is government, public officials and security forces. They account for more than half of the attacks.
SIMON: Yeah. Mexico has a new president who took office vowing to care and protect for journalists.
GARZA: Yes. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador made it apart of his campaign speech in talking about the importance of a free press and the guarantees of a free press. In the nine months since he took office in December of last year, the reality is that the institutions that the Mexican government had devised to protect journalists are just as dysfunctional with this government as with the last and even more so because their budgets had been cut. But more than that, we do not see the will of the federal government also to end the impunity, which is really the cause of all these attacks. Each attack is motivated by the fact that the previous one was never punished, was never even prosecuted.
And we're also seeing from the president himself, President Lopez Obrador, a more hostile rhetoric against the press not unlike what we're seeing in the United States with Donald Trump labeling the critical journalists, labeling it as fake news, labeling the stories that are critical of the government or dare expose some kind of government corruption - labeling them as fake news. So if local officials at the lower levels, say governors, mayors or whatever, start saying that the president himself uses that rhetoric, well, they are going to feel free to also use it and to, maybe, also harass journalists that they don't like.
SIMON: May I ask you - how do you feel day to day?
GARZA: My own experience has touched both extremes, Scott, because the city where I lived and where I edited the largest newspaper there in the region was a place that became the turf in a - in the turf war between two drug cartels about 10 years ago. And we as the largest news organization in the city, we came under fire. My newspaper, at some point, had the record of being the most shot at newspaper in the country. We were attacked five times.
And now, the things have calmed down in my city. And crime has gone down, and the city is safe. But I am seeing it with my colleagues in other places, places that used to be safe and tranquil a few years ago, and they suddenly exploded. And so I feel that, you know, there needs to - we need to develop a sense of solidarity in which journalists in Mexico can share our experiences among us and try to learn from what we live.
SIMON: Javier Garza is a journalist and expert in security for journalists. Thanks so much for being back with us.
GARZA: Thank you, Scott. My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.