Mexican Journalists Protest Violence
The escalating violence against journalists in Mexico prompted an unprecedented demonstration of more than 1,000 people in ten cities, demanding an end to murders, kidnappings and disappearances.
The following account is a testimony from Marcela Turati, member of the Red de Periodistas de a Pie (On-the-Ground Journalists Network) and an organizer of the recent series of demonstrations in Mexico protesting the escalating level of violence against journalists. Here are excerpts translated into English. Read the full version of Turati's report in Spanish here.
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I want to share with you the importance of Saturday, August 7, a historic day in Mexico, because we journalists took to the streets to demonstrate in the capital and in 10 cities across the country to demand an end to attacks against the profession and impunity, all with the same cry: “Not one more.”
THE MARCH IN MEXICO CITY
The mobilization in the capital began in the afternoon, at the gazebo of the Angel of Independence, with a roll call and moment of silence for the 64 journalists who have been killed and the 12 others who have disappeared over the past decade.
“It’s a march where we Mexican journalists have renounced the word because the word is at risk,” said Elia Baltazar, a journalist who had been designated as the spokesperson for the march earlier in the day, as we made the signs we would carry during the demonstration. Among the phrases we wrote: “Because we don’t want to be the news,” “For your right to know and my right to inform,” and “Never again send a journalist to a war zone without health and life insurance.”
Although the march was intended to be silent, we reporters showed that we don't know how to keep quiet. Soon the walk became a celebration in which we all recognized each other as peers, as the crew of the same ship – all with the same sense of outrage at what we have experienced and the difficult situations that so many others like us are facing.
The idea for the movement came from a conversation between a couple of journalists on Facebook following the hostage-taking in July of four journalists who were covering a prison protest in Durango. That cathartic conversation soon included more members, who raised the idea of organizing a march. Other reporters joined the initiative by e-mail.
“Mexican journalists have for generations fought amongst ourselves, denigrating and dismissing the work of colleagues with whom we disagree. But today we must be like a family. Yes, we fight amongst ourselves. But when we go to the streets, we must go with the unity of a good pack of dogs to defend our own who are under attack,” wrote the reporter Luis Guillermo on July 28 at 16:29 pm. Twenty-two people responded to his post.
A day later, at 8:49 am, the idea for the march exploded when Luis Guillermo wrote on his Facebook page: “Let’s imagine something — that on a Saturday or a Sunday when we usually relax – that all of us journalists, one by one, walk together to the Angel of Independence and place an enormous bow of black fabric at the Angel’s feet. In silence, we will place our mute tape recorders there to leave for a few hours as a symbol of mourning — without shouts or protests or artifice — with only the deep sorrow of aggrieved colleagues. How poetic, no?” Twenty people responded.
This chat among colleagues grew into a collective labor, joining hands, hearts and heads and inspiring many more to join. The movement was successful for this reason.
It spread thanks to the social networks – mainly Twitter and Facebook — because we all knew beforehand that many others like us would also attend. Each day, more colleagues overcame fear and silence by confirming their attendance publicly.
The march included reporters from various states, foreign correspondents, families of journalists, a lot of anonymous citizens – from peasants in Xochimilco and students opposed to the security strategy to professionals concerned about the silencing of the press. Some government officials and press managers, as well as members of human rights organizations felt the need to cover and defend our contingent. They wanted to return the favor for the coverage that journalists always have given to their issues and activities.
Lucha Castro, the lawyer who represents the cases of the disappeared and murdered women of Juarez, said: “We can’t fail to be present. With you journalists we have cried and you have accompanied us. Thanks to you we have been able to make the murders and massacres against women visible.”
Members of the organization Pasta de Conchos Family (which was developed in response to the 2006 mining accident in which 67 miners perished) explained: “No one should die doing their work. Not miners and not journalists who do work as dangerous as the work of miners. And just like the miners, they have been risking their lives without health insurance, without life insurance.”
Photo: Germán Canseco / Proceso: At the Ministry of the Interior, demonstrators placed a banner with the names of the fallen, photos of those killed or disappeared, and the silenced tools of the profession -- typewriters, cameras, notebooks.
ARMED WITH NOTEBOOKS AND PENS
As they marched, some reporters – whether those who covered sports or indigenous issues or police – told stories of threats they had suffered from drug traffickers, local politicians, political bosses, police, business owners, and paramilitaries, and of the fear that stays with them.
During the march, we began to get messages from colleagues in Chiapas, Oaxaca, Juarez, Tijuana, Hermosillo, and Torreon, asking how it was going over here, or reporting how they were doing in their states. Some days before, they had sent e-mails to say they were joining the initiative, to share the death threats they have received, and to denounce the silence in which they live.
The most emotional moment, which put lumps in our throats, was when the contingent arrived at the Ministry of the Interior, where we placed a banner with the names of the fallen, spread out on the ground photos of journalists that we miss, and placed a black cross and symbolic bloodstains with red paint alongside the tools of our trade – typewriters, cameras, notebooks.
Then came the roll call of the names of the absent and the journalists began to chant with a profound indignation rising from the depths of our feelings of impotence: "Not one more, not one more, not one more..." And then silence followed this cry.
There was nothing more to say.
FROM THE STATES
We were finding out via cell phone messages that at the same time in Oaxaca City, 100 reporters were protesting in front of the Metropolitan Cathedral with signs that said, "Stop the violence against journalists," "Not one more attack against journalists" and "In Oaxaca we want live journalists." (In this state, two indigenous journalists were killed in 2008, a correspondent was recently shot in the capital while covering a march, another correspondent was kidnapped and forced into exile and a photographer was killed.)
TEARS AND HOPE
The street demonstration also provided an arena to express the emotional and psychological burdens of the continuing violence. Correspondent Cecilia Gonzalez had this to say:
"When the march started, I began to cry. I have 17 years of being a trooper like everyone, it's exciting to do something together, do something because reporters from the states always have been nobodies, working unprotected, no one uses a shield. So it's good for them to be made visible, to talk about them."
The hope is still reflected in the social networks, the email messages that we receive, in columns that newspapers continue to publish about the role of the press in these moments.
And since Saturday, what we all have been thinking is, what happens next?