Jour­nal­ists live in fear in Mexico’s Ver­acruz

The China Post - - FEATURE - BY JEN­NIFER GON­ZA­LEZ CO­VAR­RU­BIAS

Jorge Sanchez de­cided to be­come a jour­nal­ist when his fa­ther, the founder of a com­mu­nity news­pa­per, was kid­napped and mur­dered in Jan­uary.

Now, as a wave of vi­o­lence against re­porters con­tin­ues to sweep his home state of Ver­acruz — of­ten called the most dan­ger­ous in Mexico for the news media — Sanchez fears he and many oth­ers could meet the same fate.

At least 11 Ver­acruz jour­nal­ists have been killed in the past five years in the eastern state, lead­ing Re­porters With­out Borders to rank it the third most dan­ger­ous place in the world to prac­tice the pro­fes­sion, af­ter Iraq and Syria.

Sanchez and his col­leagues’ fears have only grown since pho­to­jour­nal­ist Ruben Espinosa, who had fled Ver­acruz af­ter be­ing threat­ened and ha­rassed, was found bru­tally mur­dered with four other vic­tims in a Mexico City apart­ment on July 31.

“Some­times you ask your­self, are they go­ing to kill us all soon? Un­for­tu­nately, that seems to be the idea,” Sanchez told AFP.

Clasp­ing the up­com­ing is­sue of La Union, the news­pa­per launched by his fa­ther, the 29-year-old re­porter said there ap­peared to be a cam­paign in the oil-rich state to “ex­ter­mi­nate any­one who pub­lishes any­thing that brings bad gov­er­nance to light.”

His dad, Moises, started La Union with his sav­ings and kept it go­ing by moon­light­ing as a taxi driver.

The pa­per took a crit­i­cal look at of­fi­cials Moises blamed for the de­cline of his home­town, Medellin de Bravo.

Moises was ab­ducted from his home in Jan­uary and found sev­eral days later with his throat slit.

The lo­cal mayor was ac­cused of or­der­ing the killing, but fled be­fore he could be ar­rested.

Barbed Wire, Cam­eras

Now Jorge Sanchez has launched La Union.

He still lives in his fa­ther’s house, which he has con­verted into a sort of bunker.

The two-story res­i­dence, which has no win­dows on the sec­ond floor, is sur­rounded by a se­cu­rity wall topped with barbed wire.

It is mon­i­tored by 12 se­cu­rity cam­eras con­nected to con­trol cen-

re- ters staffed by in­te­rior min­istry agents and state author­i­ties, part of a pro­tec­tion pro­gram for at-risk jour­nal­ists and ac­tivists.

State po­lice stand watch out­side 24 hours a day.

“Iron­i­cally,” Sanchez says, this is the same po­lice force that “didn’t re­act” to his fa­ther’s kid­nap­ping.

But, he says, “liv­ing in fear is not an op­tion” — a line his dad used to use.

That line will also ap­pear in the up­com­ing is­sue of La Union, along with a page ded­i­cated to Espinoza, who worked for the prom­i­nent news mag­a­zine Pro­ceso and was a friend of Sanchez.

Espinosa was part of a group of peo­ple who ral­lied around the Sanchez fam­ily af­ter Moises was kid­napped, storm­ing into the Ver­acruz Congress at one point to de­mand ac­tion.

The late pho­to­jour­nal­ist, who was 31 when he died, also fought for jus­tice in the killing of Pro­ceso cor­re­spon­dent Regina Martinez, who was stran­gled in her home in 2012.

Wary Text mes­sages

Ver­acruz jour­nal­ists and ac­tivists have de­manded an­swers to the spate of killings from state Gover­nor Javier Duarte, a mem­ber of Pres­i­dent En­rique Pena Ni­eto’s In­sti­tu­tional Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Party (PRI) who has faced ac­cu­sa­tions of threat­en­ing his crit­ics.

One of those killed with Espinosa, Na­dia Vera, was a rights ac­tivist who had ac­cused Duarte of be­ing be­hind the deaths of the 11 jour­nal­ists killed since he came to power in 2010.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors ques­tioned Duarte this week on the killing of Espinosa and Vera. He de­nied any in­volve­ment.

The gover­nor is at the very least “in­di­rectly” re­spon­si­ble for the vi­o­lence against jour­nal­ists in Ver­acruz, be­cause his ad­min­is­tra- tion has failed to stop it, said Jorge Mo­rales, a mem­ber of a watchdog group that seeks to pro­tect Ver­acruz’s jour­nal­ists.

“As long as there is no jus­tice or change in the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion, the mur­ders aren’t go­ing to stop,” he said.

Another cor­re­spon­dent for Pro­ceso, Noe Zavaleta, re­lated how he and his col­leagues have taken to send­ing each other a con­stant stream of text mes­sages when­ever they go out on as­sign­ment, so some­one will know if any­thing goes wrong.

With tears in his eyes, Zavaleta said Espinosa’s mur­der was “a night­mare — one that you wish you could wake up from.”

(Left) Men carry the casket of mur­dered pho­to­jour­nal­ist Ruben Espinosa dur­ing his fu­neral ser­vice in Mexico City, Aug. 3. (Right) A pho­to­graph of mur­dered pho­to­jour­nal­ist Ruben Espinosa sits among flow­ers and can­dles in front of his casket in­side a fu­neral home be­fore his wake be­gins in Mexico City, Aug. 3.

AP

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