Silence or Death in Mexico’s Press

An Era of Promises and Fear

Key events involving the press, crime, and politics during the Calderón era

December 1, 2006: Felipe Calderón Hinojosa takes office as president after defeating Andrés Manuel López Obrador in a hotly contested race. “Today, organized crime is trying to terrify and immobilize the public and the government,” Calderón says in his inaugural speech.

December 21, 2006: The Chamber of Deputies creates a committee to examine attacks on the press. Gerardo Priego Tapia is appointed head of the committee. The committee disbands in 2009 but is soon recreated.

January 20, 2007: Rodolfo Rincón Taracena, a crime reporter in Villahermosa, Tabasco state, vanishes after leaving his newsroom. His disappearance is part of a rash of missing-person cases involving Mexican police reporters.

May 24, 2007: The Hermosillo daily Cambio de Sonora suspends publication after two grenade attacks and repeated threats. “We cannot give ourselves the luxury of waiting” for security conditions to improve, an executive says.

July 13, 2007: The Association of Foreign Correspondents in Mexico issues a warning to reporters traveling in Nuevo Laredo in northern Mexico. The association says it has received “information from reliable sources” that any “foreign journalist in the area could become a target for assassination.”

August 14, 2007: Four reporters in Coahuila state are detained, beaten, and interrogated by Mexican soldiers. The reporters, who are covering military operations near Monclova, are held on vague accusations for three days before being released.

December 8, 2007: Three delivery workers for the daily El Imparcial del Istmo are shot and killed while driving a truck bearing the paper’s logo in Oaxaca state. Shortly before the attack, the newspaper receives threatening e-mails and letters telling staff to tone down coverage of drug gangs.

January 25, 2008: Carlos Huerta Muñoz, a crime reporter for the newspaper Norte de Ciudad Juárez, flees Mexico after receiving anonymous death threats. The newspaper decides to limit crime coverage as a result.

June 9, 2008: President Calderón and members of his cabinet meet with a CPJ delegation at the presidential mansion Los Pinos. “The government agrees with the idea of federalizing crimes against freedom of expression,” Calderón tells the delegation.

June 26, 2008: The U.S. Congress approves a major aid package, known as the Merida Initiative, to combat drug trafficking in Mexico and Central America. The package, totaling US$400 million for Mexico, is designed to provide equipment and training to local security agencies.

September 17, 2008: Assailants throw grenades into a crowd of Independence Day revelers in Morelia, Michoacán state, killing seven and injuring more than 100. An unprecedented attack on civilians, it is considered a milestone in the battle between the government and organized crime.

October 24, 2008: President Calderón sends to Congress a proposed constitutional amendment to make a federal offense any crime related to “violations of society’s fundamental values, national security, human rights, or freedom of expression, or for which their social relevance will transcend the domain of the states.”

November 13, 2008: A gunman kills veteran crime reporter Armando Rodríguez Carreón in the driveway of his home in Ciudad Juárez. His horrified 8-year-old daughter witnesses the murder.

December 9, 2008: Octavio Orellana Wiarco, the special prosecutor for crimes against the press, denies that Mexico is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for the press. “There is a wrong perception depicting Mexico as a place with high numbers of journalist killings,” he says.

January 6, 2009: Masked gunmen in two pickup trucks fire high-caliber weapons and toss a grenade outside Televisa studios in Monterrey. No injuries are reported, but the network equips crime reporters with protective vests.

April 6, 2009: The Chamber of Deputies unanimously approves a bill to make crimes against the press part of the federal criminal code. The initiative takes a different approach than the Calderón proposal, but it stalls in the Senate.

May 28, 2009: The government offers a 5 million peso (US$370,000) reward for information leading to those behind the murder of journalist Eliseo Barrón Hernández. The reward is considered the first of its kind since 1984. Five suspects are later arrested.

November 2, 2009: Authorities find the bullet-ridden body of reporter Bladimir Antuna García, about 12 hours after he is abducted on a main street in Durango. Next to his body is a note: “This happened to me for giving information to the military and for writing too much.”

November 11, 2009: María Esther Aguilar Cansimbe, a seasoned police reporter in Zamora, Michoacán state, goes missing. Aguilar had covered corruption and organized crime.

February 15, 2010: Gustavo Salas Chávez, a former Mexico City prosecutor, is appointed the new special prosecutor for crimes against the press. News reports highlight that the office had not solved any crimes under the two previous officials.

March 8, 2010: The Dallas Morning News reports that several reporters are abducted in separate episodes in Reynosa, northern Mexico. Three remain missing as of June 2010.

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