CPJ Blog

Press Freedom News and Views

Mike O'Connor

CPJ Mexico Representative Mike O'Connor is a veteran journalist who has reported for news organizations including CBS News, National Public Radio, and The New York Times. He is the author of the CPJ special report, "Journalist murders spotlight Honduran government failures."

2011



Javier Soto plays his accordion as he searches for tourists in a vacant downtown market in Nuevo Laredo on January 26, 2006. (AP/Gregory Bull)

You don't notice it at first. Not with the people seemingly moving as normal on the sidewalks and the happy recorded music blaring across the plaza in front of city hall to announce the annual cowboy parade. No, at first Nuevo Laredo looks like a regular border town, until the military armored car goes by a block away and rotates the heavy machine gun toward the plaza. Are the soldiers just curious? Or do they see something they want to shoot? Who will be hit if they do open fire? Then other images come into focus, like the blocks of closed shops, with for sale signs only on the most recently closed because the owners of the older, more dilapidated shops, have given up even that hope.

The brutal, September 1 murders of two women from the world of mass communications drew international headlines as the latest attack against the Mexican news media. But the sensational case--the two were found strangled in a park in the heart of Mexico City--illustrates the complexities of determining motives amid the pervasive violence afflicting Mexico. Since President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa took office in December 2006 and deployed thousands of troops to fight criminal organizations, more than 40,000 people have been killed in violence between organized crime gangs or between the gangs and authorities, according to the attorney general's office.

In the port city of Veracruz, Mexico, reporters are fleeing for their lives or are in hiding, according to Notiver, the city's principal newspaper, and local reporters. This flight began on Wednesday after the decapitated body of Yolanda Ordaz de la Cruz, a police beat reporter for Notiver for nearly three decades, was found near the building of Imagen, another local newspaper. Journalists in the city told CPJ that they assumed the murder was a general threat to reporters working for all news organizations. This follows the murders on June 20 of the city's most well-known columnist, Miguel Ángel López Velasco, his wife, Agustina, and their son, Misael. Both father and son worked at Notiver.

Major Mexican press organizations agreed today on a code for coverage of organized crime, a step seen as a national breakthrough that could set professional standards well into the future. Though organized crime has been the major story in Mexico for several years, coverage has been haphazard based on time, place, and news organization. The problem with today's agreement is that organized crime cartels are so powerful in many parts of the country that they will likely be able to block some of the most important elements of the accord with the same intimidation they use to control much of the press already.

Blog Authors
Full author list »

Recent Categories