Por Dolia Estevez, publicado en Forbes
Violence related to organized crime and corrupt local and state officials in Mexico’s most violent states such as Sinaloa has made Mexico one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, according to international NGOs. In its annual report, Article 19, a London-based NGO, said that 2013 has been the most violent for journalists since 2007. The group documented 330 attacks, broadly defined as anything from fisticuffs to slayings, one every 26½ hours; 6 of 10 of these attacks were carried out by corrupt government officials. According to Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based international NGO, 89 reporters have been killed in connection with their work since 2000 in Mexico, and 17 more have gone missing.
The most recent case took place last week when Adrián López Ortíz, Editor in Chief of Grupo Noroeste, a media group in the Pacific state of Sinaloa that owns the daily Noroeste, was shot in the legs by unknown armed men in Culiacán, the state capital. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemned the attack and said it was alarmed by a series of threats, harassment, and attacks since Noroeste’s coverage of the capture of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, the CEO of the Sinaloa Cartel, the world’s most powerful drug syndicate.
Journalists protest against rising violence during a march in Mexico City. (Photo credit: Knight Foundation)
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In what the daily described as a “premeditated attack,” López’s car was intercepted and two men forced him out, beat and robbed him. Before leaving in López’s vehicle, one of the assailants returned and shot him in the legs while he was lying on the ground, Noroeste reported. López was reported to be in stable condition in a local hospital.
Corrupt government and law enforcement officials in the administration of Sinaloa governor Mario López Valdez are strongly suspected of being behind the violence. In a full page statement published in Noroeste, the corporate board of the paper, held Sinaloa Governor López Valdez responsible for the attacks on the paper, a total of 62 since 2010. The board said that the attacks, for which not one individual has been convicted, are the response of state officials to the press work carried out by Noroeste.
The targeting of Noroeste by the Sinaloa Cartel began in 2010, when Noroeste’s regional offices in Mazatlán were shot at by two cartel members. The attack with AK-47 rifles came soon after the paper was threatened for publishing a story about organized crime. A human head and threatening messages written on a blanket were left in front of the building.
The attacks have become more frequent since El Chapo’s arrest on February 22. The paper’s offices received anonymous threatening phone calls after government officials refused to comment for a story on reports that Sinaloa law enforcement officers were part of El Chapo’s security team. A month after El Chapo’s arrest, the head of the state police was suspended but not charged.
On March 2, three Noroeste reporters were beaten by police and had their equipment taken away while covering a protest by local residents in support of El Chapo, the daily said. Also a month ago, several reporters in Mazatlán, the city where El Chapo was captured, received anonymous phone calls telling them to stop investigating alleged links between city policemen and El Chapo’s security team, or else.
The Mexican government authorities’ knee-jerk reaction is to deny that violence against journalists is connected to their reporting. The case of Noroeste is no exception. Sinaloa’s Attorney General Marco Antonio Higuera claimed that the attacks against the paper’s editor were not related to his work.