Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

War on Information In Mexico

Friday, March 12, 2010 |

Reynosa, Tamaulipas - Five Mexican journalists are missing tonight. Authorities say they were recently kidnapped in Reynosa.

The Mexican border city is fighting a war of information. There are reports of journalists being threatened or bribed to keep the truth from getting out. Now, an American-based group is trying to put a stop to it.

Last November we told you about a Mexican journalist working in Reynosa. Now she's keeping quite because of the increased risk.

We had to change her voice and blur her face. She is one of many journalists in the area who can't report what's happening. She says, "Self-censorships becomes more of a problem. Many issues affect daily lives and thousands of citizens in Mexico are going unreported."

The Committee to Protect Journalist is pushing for the Mexican government to do more investigations regarding media kidnappings.

The committee say there are more attacks on reporters and photographers in Mexico than ever before. The drug cartels target those trying to alert the public.

Calos Lauria with the CPJ says, "We are really alarmed by this wave of unprecedented violence. The problem here is that these criminals have become so powerful that they can influence every sector. Information is vital for criminal organizations. It can affect their illegal activities."

The CPJ reports journalists accepting money, alcohol and prostitutes from the drug gangs. The CPJ says 24 journalists have been killed in Mexico since 2006.

Half of those were killed last year. Mexico is now considered one of the worlds most dangerous countries for the media.

A lot of people in Reynosa want the information to get out. More are turning to social media websites like Twitter, Facebook and YouYube to get the reports out. But not all of the social media reports are credible.

Journalists targeted in Mexico border town

The border city of Reynosa is Mexico's new front on the war on drugs.

A growing turf battle between drug cartels has terrorised locals and the situation has deteriorated to the extent that residents are afraid to go outside, even during the day.

Journalists are also fearing for their lives after some reporters were targeted by gangs.

The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists is now calling on the Mexican government to investigate a series of kidnappings of reporters covering the drug war in the area.

Mexico drug cartel uses rogue reporters to intimidate media

Reynosa, Mexico - A powerful drug cartel is buying off journalists in northern Mexico to work as spies and smother coverage of a spike in killings on the U.S. border in the latest attack on the media in Mexico.

Hitmen from the Gulf cartel based over the border from Texas are paying reporters around $500 a month and showering them with liquor and prostitutes to intimidate and silence colleagues at radio stations and newspapers in towns near the Laredo-Brownsville area, journalists and editors say.

A turf war that has erupted over the past three weeks around the manufacturing city of Reynosa has gone almost completely unreported despite more than 100 deaths, in a news blackout made more notable by the intense media coverage of other drug war flashpoints around the country.

Across Mexico, nearly 19,000 people have been killed in drug violence since President Felipe Calderon came to power in late 2006 and launched a military-backed campaign against drug cartels. The bloodshed worries Washington and is scaring off foreign investment and tourists as Mexico's economy tries to recover from its worst recession in decades.

For years, ill-paid Mexican reporters have occasionally been forced by cartel gunmen to take money to report favorably on traffickers or hush up killings, but the Gulf cartel now appears able to impose an almost total muzzle on reporting violence from Nuevo Laredo to Matamoros.

Reporters at news radio stations and dailies including El Manana and La Prensa say they have little choice but to ignore the fight over smuggling routes that has broken out between the Gulf gang and its former armed wing the "Zetas."

"Our newsrooms have been infiltrated by these reporters, they monitor what we write, they know where we live. With this system, the narcos have direct control over us," said a local newspaper editor who declined to be named for safety.

Many of the rogue journalists do little to hide their dealings with traffickers and have been seen arriving at news conferences or crime scenes in flashy new SUVs accompanied by armed men, often to prevent news of any killings getting out.

One reporter in the border town of Nuevo Progreso said his job involved talking cash from corrupt local police in the pay of the Gulf cartel and distributing it to local reporters.

Others caught by the army at sporadic checkpoints have struggled to explain the hundreds of dollars bulging in their wallets when most local reporters earn less than $400 a month.

Directors at El Manana and La Prensa in Reynosa were not immediately available for comment.

The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists, or CPJ, said it is aware some journalists are working for cartels.

"We know this is happening. It is a consequence of the huge level of influence these criminals exert," said Carlos Lauria, the committee's senior co-ordinator for the Americas.

Desperate to spread news of the new outbreak of violence, residents in and around Reynosa have turned to social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to post cell phone videos of shootouts and report suspicious activity.

"One of the fundamental human rights has been taken away in this part of Mexico and the federal government is not speaking out about it," said Alberto Islas, an independent security analyst in Mexico City.

Some honest reporters choose not to report the violence out of fear for their safety. Cartel attacks have made Mexico one of the world's most dangerous countries for the media, the CPJ says, with at least 24 journalists killed here since 2006.

So-called narco-reporters may be at an even greater risk of getting caught up in the turf wars. Five reporters suspected of working for the Gulf cartel went missing two weeks ago in Reynosa.

"We don't know who they angered but it wasn't because of their journalism. Two of the reporters hadn't published anything in months," said a colleague of the missing journalists.

Local politicians say the Gulf cartel, which controls a third of narcotics shipments into the United States, is keeping its war with the Zetas as quiet as possible to avoid provoking army deployments that could disrupt its smuggling operations.

Calderon has sent thousands of troops across Mexico to curb drug gang operations, but the army presence around Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa and Matamoros is still relatively light.

"The Gulf cartel's message is: there's nothing happening here," said a town councilor in Rio Bravo next door to Reynosa. "The hitmen even pick up their dead after gunfights so there's no evidence of what's going on," he added.

Note: to continue to report information from the Mexico side of the drug cartel war, please send us any information, pictures and video so that we can post them and show the world what is happening there. Email to: borderlandbeat@gmail.com.

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2 Borderland Beat Comments:

Legacy said...

It's so sad how people are losing their birth given right to express and communicate. This cartels lost what they once had, pride.. People used to admire them because they took care of their city and left citizens who had nothing to do with the business live in peace.. Now everyone is a target

Anonymous said...

I live in McAllen, Tx. About 8 miles from Reynosa. Several murders happen in Reynosa everyday, but they go unreported by the national news. This site keeps me up to date sometimes even more than our local news stations. Everything newsworthy where i live is about the drug war, but not all of the story is ever told. Mexico won't report any of the casualties. heres my local news link: valleycentral.com

Thanks for keeping me informed Borderland Beat.
JC

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