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."

Blog   |   Mexico

Mexico's special prosecutor hesitates over early cases

Police remove the body of Alberto López Bello, a crime reporter, from a crime scene in Oaxaca on July 17. (Reuters/Jorge Luis Plata)

Organized crime capos and corrupt politicians have been getting away with murdering journalists in Mexico for so long that there isn't a reliable count on the number of the dead or a useful way to measure the crushing effects on a democracy when a country's press is afraid to tell the truth. CPJ research shows that, of 69 journalists killed since 1994 in Mexico, 28 were clearly killed because of their work, and nearly all of those directly targeted for murder. But the killing started years before that, the numbers are not dependable, and the motives are often unknown, because the professionalism of the investigations is doubtful. Mexico's state governments have simply failed to find those responsible, and journalists working outside of the capital have for the most part decided their only protection is to not cover stories the killers don't want covered.

Blog   |   Mexico

Family murdered, Veracruz journalist seeks asylum in US

Several journalists, including Miguel Angel López, have fled Veracruz state fearing reprisal from cartels, gangs, or the government. Here, a soldier is seen standing guard in downtown Veracruz. (Reuters/Edgard Garrido)

A fellow newspaper photographer phoned him and said he had to get right over to his parents' home because something very bad had happened. When Miguel Angel López remembers seeing when he got there was "just blood. You can't understand that much hatred." He was talking about the murders of his mother, his father--a senior editor at the state's most important newspaper--and his brother, a photographer at the paper. The killings turned out to be the beginning of a war on journalists.

Blog   |   Mexico

What's risky? In Mexico's twin cities, journalists don't know

The letter "Z," painted on a hill in the state of Coahuila, refers to the Zetas drug cartel. (Reuters/Tomas Bravo)

The Durango state governor was on his way to meet with reporters. Before he arrived, the reporters huddled to decide the question of the moment. It seemed obvious: Why had a former mayor been arrested the day before in what clearly seemed to be a political move? "That was the only question," a reporter said later. "Did the governor have the ex-mayor arrested? Because, behind that move, you can feel a crackdown coming against the opposition." Yet, this reporter added, "It was too dangerous to ask. No one was brave enough."

Blog   |   Mexico

Mexican press fails to question Martínez murder case

Two men, one wearing a mask depicting President Enrique Peña Nieto, protest to demand justice in the Regina Martínez case a year after her murder on April 28. (AP/Felix Marquez)

He certainly looked guilty of something, and as if he'd finally been caught. With either his head down or with a kind of scared, dead-eyed stare, in a white jumpsuit, in front of the four Veracruz state police officers crowded behind him. They were all in black uniforms, with a strip of face and eyes showing through black masks, with four matte black assault rifles menacingly at the ready to guard a slim man in handcuffs. (Actually, had there been any gunfire, the police were so over-armed and so close together that it's likely one of them would have been the first victim.) Still, it all looked good for the cameras and reporters summoned to hear about the man's arrest and the end of a most doggedly troublesome case for state officials: the murder of Regina Martínez Pérez on April 28 last year.

Blog   |   Mexico

In Mexico, a movement and a bill against impunity

Protesters seek justice in journalist murders in Veracruz, one of the nation's deadliest places for the press. (Reuters/Edgard Garrido)

Who can say exactly when the work of press freedom groups, human rights defenders, and budding networks of Mexican journalists became a movement? It would have been many murders, many funerals, many orphans ago. It would have been countless news events--about crime, corruption, violence--that went uncovered because reporters and news organizations concluded that the only way to survive was to stay silent. But finally, several years ago, the work of all these groups began to push the massacre of the Mexican press on to the national agenda. On Thursday, the movement led to a bill that gives the federal government jurisdiction over crimes against journalists. Today, the measure awaits only the president's approval. 

April 26, 2013 4:21 PM ET

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Blog   |   Mexico

Arrests in Torreón press crimes; will it make difference?

Twenty-one people have been arrested for a wave of crimes that included 11 murders (six of which were committed against police officers), the abduction for hours of five employees of El Siglo de Torreón newspaper, the murder of a mayoral candidate, and attempted murder of a current mayor in a large metropolitan area in central Mexico, according a senior federal official. 

March 8, 2013 3:47 PM ET

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Blog   |   Mexico

Officials, journalists cast doubt on Veracruz murder case

Regina Martínez was killed in one of the most politically corrupt Mexican states. (AP Photo/Felix Marquez)

Veracruz is a beautiful, long, thin state on the Gulf coast of Mexico where many journalists are terrified not only of the rampant organized crime groups that kill and control, but also of the state government. Fear that state officials will order them murdered for what they investigate or write has forced about a dozen journalists to flee the state, claiming that fear also puts a clamp on coverage for those who remain. Many journalists still working in the state tell CPJ they agree.

November 2, 2012 5:17 PM ET

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Blog   |   Mexico

El Mañana cedes battle to report on Mexican violence

Investigators photograph graffiti implicating the Zeta cartel near where 49 corpses were found on the road near Monterrey, Mexico, on May 13. (AFP/Julio Cesar Aguilar)

They would tell you that the killers haven't let them cover real news for several years--if you call news serious information that's important to the public, like why the police didn't investigate so many murders or kidnappings or extortions. Or why drugs were sold so openly. Or that three former governors are being investigated for laundering money for the organized crime cartel that runs much of the state of Tamaulipas.

May 23, 2012 3:13 PM ET

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Blog   |   Mexico

Mexican senators say journalist murders to be federal crime

The author, right, looks on as Sen. José
González Morfín, center, confers with CPJ Americas Senior Program Coordinator Carlos Lauría. (Ignacio González Anaya)

With near impunity in the murders of journalists a persistent reason for the terror and self-censorship among Mexican news organizations, legislators say the national Senate is on the verge of passing a constitutional amendment that would allow federal authorities to take over cases of crimes against freedom of expression. Passage would mean that the typically less corrupt and more effective federal police and prosecutors would move aside state authorities to tackle cases of murdered journalists or those living under threat.

March 9, 2012 5:57 PM ET

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Blog   |   Mexico

In Mexico mission, PEN speaks for a silenced press

Mexican writer Eduardo Lizalde speaks out at a PEN International event. (Reuters/Henry Romero)

The leading American author Russell Banks set the tone on Sunday as he stood among international writers and their local colleagues in Mexico City: "A nation's journalists and writers, like its poets and story-tellers, are the eyes, ears, and mouths of the people. When journalists cannot freely speak of what they see and hear of the reality that surrounds them, the people cannot see, hear, or speak it either." Banks is among the leaders of a high-level PEN International delegation that is meeting with top Mexican officials to pressure them to improve law enforcement in the murders of journalists, and to change the law to bring more cases under the federal government's jurisdiction. 

January 30, 2012 2:55 PM ET

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