#8 2013

Narco war on TV screens

“Does it have a journalistic value in helping decipher this bloodshed?”

The reality in Mexico is scary—and the drug mafia wants people to be scared. As a journalist in Mexico, can you show people what's really happening—or do you serve the purposes of the criminal organizations if you do that? That question is posed by Ioan Grillo, who wrote a book two years ago that has attracted a lot of attention called El Narco. Here he writes an exclusive for the Dissident Blog about the questions that have been posed in the wake of his book. 

Testimony #1: “We got out of Tamaulipas alive”

Most of the times journalists are kidnapped in Mexico, it ends in murder. Raymundo Pérez Arellano got lucky—he survived. He tells the Dissident Blog what happened and why he was kidnapped. 

Testimony #2: ”I prayed to God and left myself in his hands”

Héctor Gordoa was supposed to write about a murder that was posted as a clip on Youtube. He was about to face the same fate himself. He was released—if he promised to write what the drug mafia said. Or else his friends

A land where the storyteller is the story

What actually happens to the people in a country under the yoke of violence? The image of Mexico as a violent country risks ultimately becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Jennifer Clement, poet, until recently president of the Mexican

The Mexico of Juárez

Puns and ambiguities are one of Luis Miguel Aguilar's trademarks. His poem entitled “Juárez” refers to both national hero Benito Juárez, 1806–1872, and the city of Juárez—the most dangerous place on earth.

“Impunity is still the rule”

74 journalists have been murdered in Mexico since 2000. Not a single case has led to charges or sentences. Either because the crimes are being committed with approval from the powers that be or due to a flawed legal system. Pat Hirschl and Lucina

La Cucaracha, La Cucaracha

Poet and literary critic Víctor Manuel Mendiola looks with dismay at what is happening in his home country of Mexico. In a very personal reflection, he recalls memories of times long past—the Mexico City of his childhood

A letter from Elena Poniatowska

Elena Poniatowska is one of Mexico's most famous authors and commentators. Here we reproduce a letter to the Dissident Blog about the role PEN's campaigns actually play in today's Mexico. 

“Every journalist's life is in danger”

Cartels and government authorities tried to silence the media in Ciudad Juárez with violence and threats. But journalists in the Mexican border town refused to give up and created a network to protect their colleagues. 

Mexico’s deadly war on information

Ioan Grillo, in his harrowing article about Mexico’s war on drugs in this issue of the Dissident Blog, raises a disturbing question: is it possible for us as journalists to use all the material we have about the violence that follows in the wake of the drug trafficking or are we then playing into the hands of the criminal organizations by strengthening their rule of fear? The violence is meant to inspire fear. To scare us. And to silence us. These syndicates expect society at large to step aside and allow them to operate undisturbed. The message the violence sends is especially directed towards writers and journalists: write what we sanction and be quiet about things we want to keep in the dark. Or you will die. We are witnessing a regular war on information. In his book El Narco (2011) Grillo describes it lucidly and with outrage.

From the PEN perspective the really frightening aspect is that the freedom of the press and the freedom of speech are yet again being threatened—a development that has worsened in the past few years. In very different localities—from Russia and China, to Turkey and Belarus—the right to write about one’s own society and to discuss problems within these is being curtailed. Either we are talking about dictatorships or semi-dictatorships or even democracies the methods drawn on to restrict a free debate are often similar: shoot the messenger. More than anywhere else this seems to hold true for today’s Mexico, the country that holds the depressing world record for having the highest number of murdered journalists.