Warning!!! Very graphic and violent content!
Drug syndicates in Mexico shoot, stab, hang reporters and photographers who are brave enough to tell the truth about brutal cartels that control entire territories
The mangled and unidentified corpses of a man, right, and a woman, left, hang from a pedestrian bridge in in the Mexican city of Nuevo Laredo, across the border from Texas in 2012. The yellow sign above them reads: “This is going to happen to all of those posting funny things on the Internet. You better f—–g pay attention. I’m about to get you.”
RAUL LLAMAS/AFP/Getty Images
By Deborah Hastings / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
In the country of Mexico, there is no such thing as freedom of the press.
There is, however, widespread freedom to simply kill or kidnap journalists who dare to report on the vicious drug wars that make Mexico one of the world’s most dangerous places for residents and reporters alike.
“There’s no real hope there for journalists,” Anthony Coulson, a former DEA agent stationed in Arizona, told The Daily News. And, he added, “it’s getting worse.”
Mexico is the fourth most deadly country for reporters, topped only by battle-plagued Syria, Somalia and Pakistan, according to the most recent survey by media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders.
“Mexico’s violence, which has grown exponentially … targets journalists who dare to cover drug trafficking, corruption (and) organized crime’s infiltration of local and federal government,” the report said.
According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, more than 50 journalists in Mexico have died or disappeared since 2006, when incoming president Felipe Calderone declared war on drug cartels and launched a high-profile media campaign that paraded arrested drug thugs and seized heroin, guns and cocaine before the public. The organization maintains a list of names of the murdered.
Calderone’s term ended in December, and so did the much-hyped perp walks of drug suspects.
New president Enrique Pena Nieto has a markedly different stance on drug cartels. Earlier this year, it announced that local and state authorities would no longer work directly with U.S. agencies, including the FBI and the DEA, when it came to sharing drug tracking intelligence.
Arriving in Mexico Thursday for private talks, President Barack Obama side-stepped the controversial policy change, saying it was “up to the Mexican people” to determine its own security issues.
Meanwhile, the atrocities against journalists have mounted. Earlier this week, radio and television announcer Jose Gerardo Padillo Blanquet vanished in Saltillo, the capital of Coahuila, which is crisscrossed with illicit smuggling routes and controlled by the Los Zetas cartel, arguably the most violent drug syndicate in Mexico .
Blanquet works for Radio Grande de Coahuila, whose director was beaten a few months ago. The media outlet also has received numerous threats over its narcotics coverage, according to local reports.
Just last week in the same city, the hacked remains of photographer Daniel Alejandro Martinez, 22, who had just started working for the Vanguardia newspaper, were found in the middle of a busy street.
His body had been butchered into pieces.
Even bloggers and Twitter users aren’t safe.
As journalists and their employers have backed off reporting on drug cartels for fear of bloody reprisals, social media users have stepped into the void, trying to inform terrified residents of drug cartel violence.
In February, a gruesome video — much like the ones Islamist terrorists posted of journalist Daniel Pearl’s 2002 decapitation in Pakistan — surfaced on YouTube.
In it, a man on his knees talks about Facebook page Valor Por Tamaulipas, (Courage For Tamaulipas) which posts security updates for the state of Tamaulipas. It hugs the southern border of Texas on the Gulf of Mexico. He calmly warns social media users to stop what they’re doing.
“Please refrain from publishing any information — if not, this is the price you will pay,” he says before a masked man appears to shoot him in the head.
“People are turning on to social media because in many areas throughout Mexico, organized crime has taken control of entire territories,” Carlos Lauria of the Committee to Protect Journalists, told The News. Another popular, and endangered, site is called Blog del Narco.
“It’s a war being fought in the streets and it’s a war for information,” Lauria said.
“People are terrified. And so are the journalists.”