Despite the fact that 12 people were killed, children were wounded, and vehicles were hijacked and used as battering rams, residents of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, didn’t see, hear or read anything in the media about a five-hour war in their streets last month between a powerful drug cartel and the Mexican military. That’s because the drug cartels are making it clear to journalists that they could be killed or kidnapped if they don’t comply with the cartels’ demands for favourable coverage.
Since President Felipe Calderón escalated his war on drugs in December 2006, more than 25,000 Mexicans have been caught in the crossfire; 10 journalists have been killed this year. Self-censorship is rampant. And Benoît Hervieu of Reporters Without Borders told Maclean’s that even remaining silent on government busts can upset other cartels who want their rivals shamed.
On Aug. 7, more than 1,000 Mexican journalists protested in Mexico City, demanding security from the authorities—but it’s not clear they will be of any help: many high-ranking officials, including the former commissioner of the federal police and the liaison to Interpol, have been accused of taking cartel payoffs.