A last bastion of press freedom falls in Mexico
Sept.7, Mexico City: The murder of photojournalist Rubén Espinosa together with four women in Mexico City on July 31 was devastating for the many Mexican journalists who have sought refuge in the streets of the capital, fleeing from death threats in their home states.
“The sense of fragility is very large,” says Daniela Pastrana, director of the organisation Periodistas de a Pie (Journalists on Foot), which offers assistance to reporters at risk in Mexico. “The killing of Rubén Espinosa has exploded the bubble of protection that Mexico City offered to many journalists who came from other parts of the country.”
“Where do I run to? Where should I go?,” wondered one female journalist who asked to remain anonymous and who has been living under police protection in Mexico City for years. “I thought that this nightmare was going to end but now I see that that it's not.”
Mexico's president, Enrique Peña Nieto, has now been forced to address the widespread criticism of his government. Peña Nieto has offered assurances that he will strengthen the federal protection mechanism for journalists and that he will not allow the killers of Rubén Espinosa to escape punishment.
But, for many, such promises sound empty in a country in which 89 percent of all murders and disappearances of journalists are left unsolved, according to data kept by the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH).
The statistics are difficult to digest: The organisation Article 19 has documented 88 journalist killings in Mexico over the past 15 years. According to the International Press Institute's (IPI) Death Watch, the period between 2006 and 2012, coinciding with the government of former President Felipe Calderón's military offensive against the drug cartels, was especially bloody: 54 journalists were murdered across the country, including 12 in Veracruz, Mexico's deadliest state for the media.
Veracruz was Rubén Espinosa's home. He was one of the dozens of displaced journalists who sought refuge in the anonymity offered by a metropolis of more than 20 million inhabitants.
“Being a displaced journalist is like dying and being reborn because you feel naked,” described another journalist in a telephone interview with IPI. “You don't have a place to sleep, you don't have food, all of your things, your belongings, your family and work, all of it, is left behind.” “Many times", he continued, “you arrive with one hand in front and the other behind. And the anxiety, the mistrust and the fear last months, and sometimes can stay with you for years.”
He also requested to remain anonymous because he fears for his life. He no longer feels safe even making his case public “with what just happened,” referring to Espinosa's killing. “We have to think twice about giving out our names.”
The Oslo Times/Ifex