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Mexico: Journalists Speak Up in Documentary ‘Forced Silence’

[All links in Spanish unless otherwise indicated]

“Organized crime tries to win over the hearts and minds of the people, and the state wishes to do the same. Journalists find themselves trapped in the middle, and are often turned into targets.” This testimony by Rachel Levin, journalist at Al Jazeera, and by other journalists working in Mexico is the opening to the mini-documentary ‘Forced Silence’ by Artículo 19.

Artículo 19, an independent organization that defends the right to freedom of expression across the globe, launched the documentary together with an annual report about Mexico for the year 2011: “Forced Silence, the State Accomplice to Violence against Journalists.”

The report points out “the state's inability to prevent, investigate, sanction and resolve the violations to the right to freedom of expresion, which in turn has only caused an increase in and the perpetuation of these violations.” Its introduction adds:

Durante el año pasado se presentaron 172 agresiones relacionadas con el ejercicio de la libertad de prensa, entre las cuales se encuentran nueve asesinatos contra periodistas, dos asesinatos de trabajadores de medios, dos desapariciones de comunicadores y ocho agresiones con armas de fuego o explosivos contra instalaciones de medios, sólo para hablar de los casos de mayor impacto.

Over the past year there have been 172 instances of aggression related to exercising the freedom of press, of which there have been nine assassinations of journalists, two assassinations of media employees, two dissappearances of correspondents and eight attacks on media facilities with firearms or explosives, only to speak of the most serious incidents.
Missing journalists - In memory of Manuel Buendía, 27 years of age, and his assassination on May 20, 2011. Photograph: Jorge Tirzo (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Missing journalists – In memory of Manuel Buendía, 27 years of age, and his assassination on May 20, 2011. Photograph: Jorge Tirzo (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Geraldine Juárez writes about the documentary in Alt1040:

El documental denuncia la retórica inútil del gobierno de Felipe Calderón, en la cual se han firmado absurdos convenios entre las esferas del poder para garantizar (sin éxito) la integridad de la labor periodística — y aunque recientemente se reformó el artículo 73para proteger a periodistas— los funcionarios se siguen llenando la boca de grandilocuentes frases mientras se encarcelan y detienen ilegalmente a ciudadanos porexpresarse en Twitter, se asesinan activistas, se incendian instalaciones de editoriales o bien, se intimidan, secuestran y asesinan periodistas impunemente— entre muchísimos otros inaceptables ataques oficiales a la ciudadanía que no es parte del status quo.

The documentary dennounces the useless rhetoric of the government under Felipe Calderón, in which absurd agreements have been signed among the spheres of power guaranteeing (without success) the integrity of journalistic labor — and even though Article 73 was recently reformed so as to protect journalists — government officials continue uttering loquacious nonsense while citizens are being emprisoned and detained illegaly for expressing themselves on Twitter, activists are being assassinated, editorial facilities are set on fire, or often journalists are even intimidated, kidnapped and assassinated with impunity— among many other unacceptable official attacks on citizens who are not part of the status quo.

In the same article Geraldine emphasizes how the documentary reflects the vulnerability of the journalists, defenders of human rights and other Mexican citizens from the violence effectuated by the ‘War on drugs':

Silencio Forzado es el reflejo de una realidad que muchos prefieren ignorar: los derechos humanos y las garantías constitucionales son pisoteados una y otra vez por las autoridades. México esta en problemas graves, el sistema legal no sirve, la violencia ha provocado más de 50 mil muertes y los periodistas, los defensores de derechos humanos y los ciudadanos que no son parte de las élites (legales o ilegales) en el poder, son cada vez más vulnerables gracias a una guerra que esta siendo utilizada para desmantelar las posibilidades de fortalecer una frágil democracia y los mecanismos necesarios para provocar la rendición de cuentas, como lo es la libertad de prensa, y que por cierto, es una garantía individual en la Constitución Mexicana.

Forced Silence is a reflection of a reality that many prefer to ignore: human rights and constitutional guarantees are stepped on over and over again by the authorities. Mexico has serious problems, the legal system does not work, violence has caused more than 50 thousand deaths, and journalists, the defenders of human rights and the citizens who are not part of the elites (legal or illegal) in power, are becoming more and more vulnerable thanks to a war that is being utilized to destroy the possibilities of strengthening a fragile democracy and the mechanisms necessary for provoking accountability, as is freedom of press, which, by the way, is an individual right guaranteed by the Mexican Constitution.

The complete documentary, which you can see below, is also available at vimeo:

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