Every time a reporter is killed, his or her death explodes in the hearts of the country’s other journalists — like an earthquake with expanding effect. It doesn’t matter whether they knew the victim or not. Each murder revives feelings of fear, terror, desperation, rage, and sadness that accumulate over time.
(Nieman Reports.org).- Every time a reporter is killed in Mexico, those of us who have organized to respond to this type of emergency send group messages from our cellphones in which we all ask each other, “Are you OK?”
For the reporters who live in the same city as the murdered colleagues, we ask if they need help paying funeral costs, circulating a political petition on social media, or mounting a protest. And above all, lately, do they need therapy for the trauma?
Wherever the latest killing happens, all of us who have had the experience of burying our colleagues must re-live the memories of fear, sadness, rage, and impotence. The impact is not limited to the families and friends of the victim. It opens a gash in the whole community.
For the last two decades, journalists have been confronted with the fact that you can be killed simply for doing your job, or for investigating subjects that someone finds inconvenient. The authorities do not seriously investigate these crimes — 95 percent of the cases since 2011 remain unsolved. Journalists have become more anxious about their safety and their future, struggling with the trauma of losing colleagues.
The opening months of this year have not been easy. In the first five months of 2022, 11 Mexican journalists have been killed, most probably because of their profession: José Luis Gamboa Arenas, Alfonso Margarito Martínez Esquivel, Lourdes Maldonado López, Roberto Toledo, Heber López Vásquez, Juan Carlos Muñiz, Jorge Camero, and Armando Linares López. Luis Enrique Ramírez Ramos was killed by multiple blows to the head in early May, his body wrapped in plastic and left on the side of the road. Just days later, Yesenia Mollinedo Falconi and Sheila Johana García Olivera — both of whom worked for the website El Veraz — were shot to death but it’s unclear whether their job was the motive.
The total since 2000 is now more than 150 murdered — at least a dozen of them women, according to Article 19, a human rights group that promotes freedom of expression around the globe. (Several were under official governmental protection.) Twenty-nine have disappeared in roughly the last two decades.
Part of the problem is the legal system is overwhelmed in general and doesn’t have the capacity to prosecute most crimes. But the murder of journalists is also a political issue. Statements from the executive branch fail to match the extent of the tragedy. Since taking office in 2018, President López Obrador’s administration has seen 33 journalists murdered. He has claimed that the murders are part of a campaign against him, to sabotage his administration.
In his daily morning press conferences, López Obrador calls investigative journalists looking into corruption in his government unpatriotic and tries to discredit the press, which he refers to as the enemy of the government. He routinely — and falsely — says the press lies and has gone after reporters investigating his sons’ possible conflicts of interest.
The bottom line is, with little or no help on the horizon and no clear message of support for the journalistic profession coming from the AMLO administration, it appears as though the situation for journalists in Mexico may get worse before it gets better.