In some countries, involvement in the news is a life-threatening activity.
Maria Elizabeth Macias, editor of the Primera Hora newspaper, was found beheaded in Neuva Laredo, Mexico, on Saturday, according to the BBC.
The Zetas drug cartel appears to have murdered her and left a warning for anyone else that would speak against them. Primera Hora posted information, supposedly anonymously, about suspected cartel hangouts and drug deals on social networking sites. That anonymity is now in question.
In Mexico, where corruption is rampant and violence is an everyday occurrence, journalists like Macias are perhaps as close to an authority as the public has. Despite the dangers, Mexican journalists should proceed with their duties. Americans should appreciate their right to freedom of speech, now more than ever.
Macias is not the only victim of this violence. On Sept. 15, a man and a woman were found dead, hung over a highway for using social networking sites to report crimes. These people risked their lives for the truth, despite the danger in defying the Zetas.
According to The Washington Post, more than 40 reporters have been killed in Mexico since 2004 in direct reprisal for their work. Carlos Lauria, of the Committee to Protect Journalists, told The Washington Post that “the criminal gangs exert control over the press. The media stops.And in the absence of news, ordinary citizens turn to Twitter and Facebook to fill the void.”
Journalism is a quest for truth. When that truth is dangerous, some are willing to die to share it with others. Journalists in Mexico who try to investigate gangs and corruption in police forces sometimes find they are one and the same. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Marisa Morales, the first female attorney general of Mexico, commented on how pervasive the corruption is: “At all levels, we see it. This is most serious in what is happening; frequently police are at the service of organized crime, especially local police.”
When the law can’t even be trusted, truth becomes a precious commodity. Mexican news reporters and amateur bloggers are on the frontlines of the drug war. The Mexican government has dispatched troops to the most violent towns, but some of the troops can be bought by the cartels, according to Fox News. News organizations need to retrain their journalists for the reality that they are in a warzone.
Given the number of murders, Mexican reporters receive little thanks for their efforts. The pay is not great and the job is stressful. Journalists in areas of conflict, such as Mexico, not only put their own lives on the line, but also their friends, co-workers and families’ lives. But journalists have a duty to report the news every day, despite the dangers of asking questions. That’s what their readers need them to do.