A Letter from Mexico is a monthly letter from Mariana Alvarado, a feminist journalist living in Mexico City. Each month she’ll be exploring different topics, especially the relationship between Mexico and the United States.
“For being a loud-mouth” – stated the note left by her gunmen. Mexican journalist Miroslava Breach was shot eight times in her car outside her home on March 23 in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. One of her children was in the vehicle with her, but thankfully he wasn’t hurt.
Breach, 54, was getting ready to take her son to school when she was shot to death. She was a correspondent for 15 years for a national newspaper in Mexico, La Jornada, and a regional newspaper, Norte de Juárez. She had reported on organized crime, corruption and drug trafficking. Mexican authorities have said she was likely killed because of her journalism.
Almost two months later, on May 15 Sonia Cordova, 48, the assistant director of El Costeño, a newspaper in the state of Jalisco, was attacked by hit men. Her son, Jonathan Rodríguez was killed in the attack. Earlier, the very same day, Mexican journalist Javier Valdez, 50, was shot and killed in the state of Sinaloa.
Valdez was well known for his reporting on drug trafficking, organized crime and its victims, a lot of them women and children. He was also a correspondent for La Jornada, the same newspaper Breach worked for, and the co-founder of Riodoce, a regional weekly newspaper in Sinaloa.
Perhaps you heard about it. I’m sure you have. How could you not when 2017 has been the deadliest year for Mexican journalists for as long as I can remember since I become one 20 years ago. How can you not, when we have raised our voices like never before and said over and over “enough is enough.” Journalists and activists are being killed in Mexico, it’s a reality.
Valdez wasn’t just an award winning journalist — in 2011 he received the International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and earned the Maria Moors Cabot from the Columbia Graduate School for Journalism– he was considered an essential source for those looking to cover drug violence in Mexico and one of the most prominent journalists, perhaps one of the best.
I’m sure you heard about it, because his death, Breach’s death and Cordoba’s attack, led a couple of weeks ago hundreds of journalists, photographers and others working for the media industry to take the streets in several Mexican cities and the capital, Mexico City, to demand the government arrest the killers.
These deaths brought not only international attention; they were the final straw for us, the Mexican community of journalists. How can we not be fed up when these deaths are part of an alarming rise in homicides across Mexico?
According to the CPJ, based in New York, 41 journalists have been killed in my home country since 1992, four of them were women. I’m not even mentioning those cases where reporters have fled the country looking for asylum because of threats. How can we live in peace when 41 families have had their hearts broken and live in tragedy just because mom or dad were doing their job? Because they were telling the truth, portraying the harsh reality of a country like it is.
My beloved Mexico has become one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. They don’t want us to be the critics of the organized crime and corrupt officials. It’s a truth that hurts and hurts deeply, especially these days when we see that not that much is being done to increase protection for journalists. When we see that not only Mexicans but other journalists in the world are being killed and censored, killing also our hopes to receive help from other nations.
We worry about the increasing demand for drugs and the proliferation of cartels as a consequence. This means more danger and risks for honest and hardworking journalists doing their job. We worry about the government of both countries, Mexico and the U.S., not doing enough to combat organized crime, and even worse, not doing enough to reduce the use of drugs among their populations. A wall separating the two countries is not going to defeat the drug cartels. Accepting we have an endemic problem with the consumption of drugs is a start.
The increase of different threats to journalists is also worrying. How can we ignore President Donald Trump’s apparent suggestion that the FBI should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information? He’s constantly complained about leaks in the news media. He’s basically declared war on the media and he keeps blaming the fake news for any disaster with his administration.
Ever since I remember I wanted to be a journalist to tell stories, especially those about undeserved groups, about ignored minorities, to make a difference. Call me an idealist, if you want, but I do believe journalism’s purpose is to provide people with the information they need to make decisions, to improve their lives, to stay informed and ultimately to consolidate our countries democracy.
However, what we are facing nowadays is an assault on press freedom. It threatens not only us as journalists, but it threatens people’s right to access vital information. It’s a real threat and we need to stick for our rights.
My colleagues and I ask for your solidarity and support. You, as a reader, can help more than you think, whether contributing with a donation, paying a subscription to your favorite media outlet or simply by telling others about what you just read. Freedom of speech is essential to holding those with power accountable, those who would take advantage of the vulnerable, often women and minorities, if their actions were left unchecked. As we’ve been saying in Mexico to protest the death of our dear journalists friends, “you don’t kill the truth by killing journalists.”
Mariana Alvarado is an award winning journalist based in Mexico City with 20 years experience as a reporter and editor of web and print. She’s currently an online instructor with the Center for Digital Journalism at Universidad de Guadalajara. She’s worked on both sides of the border covering immigration, international business and border issues. She’s collaborated with Grupo Reforma in Mexico and with the Arizona Daily Star, the Orlando Sentinel, among other publications in the U.S. She’s married and have a two-year-old girl. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter, Alvaradomariana