This June, Mexico’s Procudaría General de la República (Federal Prosecutor’s Office–PGR) issued a report that paints a gruesome picture of the country’s freedom of the press situation, releasing worrisome numbers on crimes and homicides committed against reporters and journalists for the past 14 and a half years.
Between January 2000 and June 2014, an average of one journalist has been reported assassinated in Mexico approximately every 52 days. In the 36 months between 2010 to 2012, 35 journalists were killed, and there were 71 homicides against journalists reported between 2006 and 2012, during the administration of former Mexican President Felipe Calderón.
Of the 102 murders cited in the report, which occurred in 20 out of 32 Mexican states, 61 percent of the crimes took place in Chihuahua (16 murders), Veracruz (15 murders), Tamaulipas (13 murders) Guerrero (11 murders) and Sinaloa (7 murders).These five states are no strangers to drug cartels and organized crime.
The report also mentions 27 other types of crimes continuously perpetuated against the press—not just by criminals, but also by the police. These crimes include deaths threats, murder attempts, abuse of power from authorities, illegal detainment, kidnapping, corporal violence, theft, intimidation, illegal wire-tapping, illegal seizure of property, and entering journalists’ homes without search warrants. Additionally, from 2010 through June 2014, 14 journalists have gone missing and today are presumed dead.
A comienzos de julio, Rafael Osío Cabrices, un periodista venezolano con una trayectoria respetada en Caracas, describió en un emotivo artículo su proceso al exilio. “Ya no soy más un reconocido periodista, apenas un inmigrante,” comentaba en una de sus líneas.
La frase, que me tocó personalmente, podría describir a decenas de colegas que en los últimos años han dejado el país con miedo. Miedo al desempleo, la crisis económica, la violencia, la ausencia de futuro.
Desde abril de 2013—cuando Nicolás Maduro, heredero político del fallecido presidente Hugo Chávez, tomó posesión de la Jefatura de Estado—tres grandes conglomerados de noticias han sido vendidos. El primero fue Globovisión, televisora privada que, asfixiada por demandas judiciales, pasó a manos del gobierno, implicando un giro de 180 grados en su línea. El canal que albergaba los principales críticos de la “revolución bonita” comenzó a asomar la posibilidad de firmar convenios con emisoras de Irán para la compra de enlatados.
El segundo fue la Cadena Capriles, la mayor empresa editorial del país, y mi antigua casa de trabajo. La Cadena Capriles es dueña de Últimas Noticias, diario con la principal circulación de Venezuela, en promedio 210 mil ejemplares diarios. Para poner en contexto su alcance, es posible comparar con Folha de São Paulo—el periódico con mayor tiraje de Brasil—que con 170 millones más de habitantes, distribuye 301 mil ejemplares diarios.
Recently, in New York City, a group of public health professionals and crime experts came together at a conference to discuss how to apply public health concepts to the “epidemic” of mass incarceration in the United States. “Public health, incarceration and justice issues are inextricably linked, in both the causes of the incarceration rate, and in the solutions we need to put together,” Linda Fried, Dean of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, told the group.
It was another example of the profound change in attitudes towards crime and punishment now underway in the U.S. With the world’s largest prison population—some 2.2 million adults—increasing numbers of people from all political ideologies have begun to realize that the “tough on crime” policies of previous decades have been counter-productive. They’ve destroyed families, sent some of America’s poorest communities into a cycle of decay and neglect, and have had a disproportionate impact on African Americans and Latinos.
There were almost no journalists at the Columbia University conference. And that’s a problem.
While a number of U.S. reporters have begun to deepen their coverage of these issues, too many news outlets still feed the public a daily sensational diet of murder and scandal.
I suspect that the situation is much the same in Latin America. Pablo Bachelet, in his recent Sin Miedos blog, set out the problem very well: journalists have a hard time convincing their editors (and sometimes themselves) that it is worth the extra effort and expense to go beyond the headlines to uncover the deeper stories of violence prevention.
Esta semana los líderes de The Guardian se reunieron con los directivos del diario El País para la entrega del premio Ortega y Gasset, pero más allá de los formalismos, fue un encuentro entre periodistas, donde emergió un debate que nos afecta a todos. ¿Cuál es la esencia del periodismo y su vigencia?
La respuesta fue inmediata: las historias. Más allá de los soportes, es decir redes sociales, contenidos audiovisuales o elementos para difundir la información, lo que marca la calidad y sello del contenido, son las historias.
Aquellas que no se encuentran en un comunicado de prensa. Aquellas que no se encuentran, muchas veces, detrás de un escritorio.
Los periodistas somos personas que contamos historias sobre otras personas. Es tan simple como eso. Es un oficio esencialmente humano y aunque la industria ha afrontado tiempos de enorme crisis, apostar por las historias, es apostar por un mundo que se alimenta de conexiones propias de nuestra naturaleza social.
El soporte es sólo el vehículo, pero es finalmente la historia lo que nos hace detenernos. Al leerla nos vemos a nosotros mismos, cómo afecta nuestra vida, nos hace reflexionar respecto a qué queremos hacer en este minuto o en los próximos 10 años. Nos interesa, nos molesta, nos lapida, genera una reacción.
News director for Channel 19 in El Paraíso, Honduras, Luis Arturo Mondragon, was assassinated last night as he sat with his son outside his home. This brings the number of media professionals killed this year to nine. Mr. Mondragon had been the target of threats in the weeks leading up to his death for his work in exposing corrupt local and national officials. All the journalists killed this year had been reporting on corruption as well as human rights violations and drug trafficking.
Violence against journalists in Honduras has increased since last year’s coup in June. Both journalists and their families alike have been the targets of over 300 reported attacks including assassinations, abuse, intimidation, and censorship. Honduran Security Minister Oscar Alvarez insists that the killing of journalists is not an organized effort to silence or intimidate the news media. However, only one murder case has plausible suspects while all other cases continue to go unsolved.
The violence has made Honduras one of the most dangerous places for journalists and has forced some to flee the country for their safety. Last week, Karol Cabrera fled to Canada and sought political asylum after surviving two attempts on her life. The first attempt in December left her pregnant 16-year-old daughter dead.
Carlos Fernando Chamorro, a popular Nicaraguan journalist and outspoken critic of President Daniel Ortega, announced this week that he will be leaving Telenica Channel 8 after the station was allegedly sold to relatives of the president. The son of former President Violeta Chamorro (1990-1997) and martyred newspaper editor Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, he hosts a nightly news show, Esta Noche, and a weekly program, Esta Semana.
On Sunday, during his last taping of Esta Semana, he explained his departure: “The continuance of the programs Esta Semana and Esta Noche would validate his history of abuses against the freedom of expression during his presidency… my continuance at this channel would create the image of tolerance that the regime has never had nor will ever have toward independent media in this country.” Esta Semana, which first aired in 1994, had been on Channel 8 since 2005. Esta Noche had aired since 2006.
Nicaraguan media has reported that Carlos Briceño, the station’s previous owner, sold Channel 8 for $10 million.
Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez says she was detained and beaten Friday, as she and fellow bloggers were walking to an anti-violence protest. She and Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo were forced into a car in the Vedado neighborhood of
Sánchez described one of her attackers saying: "This is as far as you're going, Yoani, I've had enough of your antics." Sánchez' blog, Generation Y, which has earned her the Spanish Ortega y Gasset Prize and Columbia University's Maria Moors Cabot Prize and receives an estimated 1 million hits per month, is highly critical of the Cuban government.
The assault on Sánchez comes less than a month after Cuban authorities denied her permission to travel to receive the Maria Moors Cabot Prize in
Tonight Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism will host the 71st annual Maria Moors Cabot Prize for outstanding reporting on Latin America and the Caribbean. New York Times veteran Anthony DePalma, O Globo columnist Merval Pereira and Christopher Hawley, Latin America correspondent for USA Today and The Arizona Republic will be present to collect their awards, which include a $5,000 honorarium. However Cuban blogger and dissident Yoani Sánchez, who was awarded a special mention from the awards committee won’t be there. Sánchez confirmed on Monday that Cuban authorities denied her request to travel to New York to accept the prize.
The Generación Y author has won international accolades for the blog she founded in 2007. In 2008 she won Spain’s prestigious Ortega y Gasset prize for digital journalism; later that year Time distinguished her as one of the year’s 100 most influential people. Her blog is translated into 15 languages and receives over 1 million visitors per month.
She is the first blogger to receive recognition from the Cabot Prize Board, which describes her writing as "...a pitch-perfect mix of personal observation and tough analysis which conveys better than anybody else what daily life ― with all its frustrations and hopes ― is like for Cubans living their lives on the island today.”
Ms. Sánchez describes her frustration at not being allowed to leave Cuba to accept the award more eloquently than anyone else could:
“All these difficulties to get permission to leave evoke for me the words of …Carlos Aldana. In an interview in 1991 for the Spanish magazine Cambio 16, the former number three in power in Cuba said: 'This year Cubans will be able to travel abroad freely.' Only it didn’t specify if we were going to do it on the wings of our imaginations and if it would be in a year containing twelve months or nearly two decades.”
Columbia University’s graduate school of journalism announced on Monday that Yoani Sanchez, author of Cuba’s most prominent independent blog, Generación Y, will be awarded a Maria Moors Cabot Prize and special citation for outstanding reporting. For the past 71 years The Cabot journalism prize—the oldest international award in journalism—has been conferred to journalists “who have covered the Western Hemisphere and, through their reporting and editorial work, have furthered inter-American understanding.” Past winners include Peruvian journalist and author, Mario Vargas Llosa and Mauricio Funes, the President of El Salvador.
The school of journalism’s official press release calls Sanchez’s blog “a pitch-perfect mix of personal observation and tough analysis, which conveys better than anybody else what daily life—with all its frustrations and hopes—is like for Cubans living their lives on the island today.” They also announced a special citation to Sanchez “for her courage, talent and great achievement” of putting the rest of the world in touch with Cuba.
In her response from Cuba, Ms. Sanchez said the most important thing about the honor was that it gives her prestige and a degree of “protection” from possible repressive actions by the Cuban government. She also indicated she would “use the prestige and protection that the Cabot Prize brings with it to continue to grow the Cuban blogosphere” and to support other future projects.
It is very unlikely that Ms. Sanchez, who has been labeled a “professional dissident” by the Cuban regime, will be permitted to travel to New York to receive her prize at the award ceremony in October. Instead, she says she travel in a virtual manner, as she does every day through her blog.
Read more about Yoani Sanchez and her consortium of bloggers in “Dispatches from the Field: Is Cuba Really Changing?” in the latest issue of Americas Quarterly.
Ask anyone for good investment tips, and they’re unlikely to suggest going in to the magazine business. So for a pair of young designers to front $10,000 of their own savings for a new print publication—that is a sign of confidence in their product.
Hecho magazine is the brainchild of Christopher Sataua, 27, and Oliver Best, 31, U.S. graphic designers who have been living in Nicaragua since 2005 and 2007, respectively. The bilingual, bi-monthly Managua-based glossy delves into Nicaragua’s underground arts and music scene with reviews, travelogues, interviews, and photo essays. The publication places a heavy emphasis on design and its appeal spans from Nicaraguans living in Nicaragua and abroad to the country’s large, English-speaking ex-pat community.
One of the feature articles for the first issue (which came out in February) profiles Bluefields Sound System, a collective of musicians from the often-ignored Caribbean coast, and reflects the publication’s dedication to broadening its scope beyond Managua. “Most people we talk to here say Managua’s the cultural center, but when we traveled [beyond Managua] we started meeting musicians, painters, and [discovering new] art galleries. That opened up a world to us.” The magazine has also profiled international artists living in Nicaragua, including Jean Marc Calvet, a French-born, Granada-based painter, and Martín Perna, a U.S. saxophonist who is living and recording music in Bluefields.
June 1: This AQ-Efecto Naím segment looks at sustainable cities in the hemisphere.