|More than 100 journalists have been murdered in Mexico since 2000|
By: Alberto Nájar | Translated by Valor for Borderland Beat
The sound of the wind blows hard, while the background of the screen is black. Almost immediately a voice is heard:
“The 16th kidnapping was mine,” he says, while a drawing of a bearded man appears as he raises his hand and then picks up a rock.
The speaker is journalist Luis Cardona. In September 2012, he was kidnapped in Nuevo Casas Grande, Chihuahua, in northern Mexico.
The reporter had published articles about a series of disappearances of youths, who narco-trafficking gangs “pick up” in order to take them to work in the cultivation of opium poppy and marijuana.
He couldn’t continue at his job.
After the kidnapping, he fled the city, and for more than two years, he spent his time in exile in the Mexican capital.
His story is told in the short film “Soy el Número 16," done with animated drawing by the group Sácalepunta.
The name of the video refers to the number that the journalist occupied in the list of kidnappings.
It’s the first documentary of this type about the plight that dozens of Mexican journalists live through in exile.
“I’d prefer them to beat me”
The kidnapping of Cardona occurred on September 19 2012 in Nuevo Casas Grandes, a municipality close to Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua.
The journalist was an editor of a local newspaper and intended to retire soon.
But then a wave of disappearances of youths began to happen, which drug gangs had taken by force to work in drug cultivation.
Cardona published articles about the 15 kidnapped. He was the next.
A group of men dressed as military soldiers kidnapped him in the center of the city, in front of dozens of people.
With his eyes blindfolded, they took him to a place, where according to the journalist, was the headquarters of the police.
There, someone who claimed to be “the head of the plaza” asked him “how much do you earn?”
“Like 250 pesos (US$16) a day,” Cardona answered. The capo scoffed. “And for that bullshit you’re going to die?”
And then the beatings started. “They were so continuous that they were no longer felt,” Cardona recalls in the film.
“I preferred them to beat me, one after the other because it would numb my body.”
“After the beating, I fell asleep. I wasn’t fainted, but asleep.”
Being kidnapped, even for a few hours, is a terrible experience. But what comes next is hell.
In the case of journalists who have been kidnapped in Mexico, the tragedy is added to the forced exile, unemployment, and poverty.
Something that Cardona knows well.
Why he was not killed during his kidnappings is something that he still doesn’t understand, he tells BBC. But since then, his life has changed completely.
What happens next is a nightmare, they break you, they break you with your family, job stability is lost, everything goes down the drain,” he says.
“You’re left with a stigma, nobody wants to hire you. You submit your resume and when they find out that you’re displaced, everything goes backwards; they don’t want any problems.”
Cardona found himself in a very different city. At first, civil organizations helped him, but then he had to seek employment.
He didn’t find it. He barely managed to sell some articles to foreign media because in Mexico, nobody wanted to buy them.
A few months ago, he returned to Ciudad Juárez where his family is at and founded a magazine that saved him from misery.
He also says that he found support in the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Freedom of Expression of the Attorney (Prosecutor) General of the Republic (PGR).
The life of the displaced and exiled journalists is an issue that is rarely discussed in Mexico.
The media that address violence against journalists often focus on assaults and homicides.
But the tragedy of leaving your home, job, and sometimes your family, there is very little news shown.
The short video aims to make this reality visible, says Rafael Pineda, the cartoonist who is also the director of the documentary to BBC.
Rapé, as he signs his drawings as, is also a journalist in exile: a few years ago, he was threatened with death in Xalapa, Veracruz, where he lived, and was forced to take refuge in Mexico City.
He knows the problem well.
“The displaced journalists need to work and tell these stories, what happened to me is a small thing compared to what happened with Luis,” he explains.
“The people should know that we are becoming the news and not for other things that this war of (Felipe) Calderón began for.”
In Mexico, since 2000, 103 journalists have been murdered, according to data from the public prosecutor that serves for crimes against journalists in the PGR.
Twenty-five other journalists are missing and several tens (the number isn’t clear) have fled their homes.
Around 20 have requested asylum in the United States and another emigrated to Europe.
The majority are in Mexico City or in other large cities.
Organizations such as Periodistas de a Pie have made collections to help but the proceeds have not been enough.
Meanwhile, violence against journalists continues.
On June 15, photographer Rubén Espinosa fled Veracruz due to death threats made against him.
Veracruz is considered to be the most dangerous state in Mexico for journalists.
It is unclear whether the photographer who is now in exile can return home, as several others have not done who have fled several years ago.