EDITOR'S NOTE: Last week, the Inter-American Press Association held it's midyear meeting in San Diego, California, where the organization presented their latest report on press freedom in various nations across the globe. That report is the basis for the following article, part one of a two-part series that examines the state of journalism in Latin America. Part one focuses on Mexico and Cuba, while part-two will examine the report's findings on press freedom in Central and South America.The perpetrators have no face and no name, but they usually make sure the victims and their families know the reason for their attack. Their weapon of choice is a firearm, but they can also rely on a plastic bag, an ax, a rope or even a pen. They hide behind government desks, in posh Caribbean hotels, and in suburban shacks on the outskirts of most Latin American cities. Often, before striking, they send a message to their victim with subtle requests to cease and desist, coupled with offers of a “juicy reward’’ in exchange for their cooperation.
A Hazardous Occupation in Mexico
In Mexico, now considered one of the most dangerous places for journalists, pressure from organized crime -- quite often under the cover of government officials -- has forced many media organizations to completely avoid any coverage related to drug traffickers. As a result, civilians have been forced to rely on informal social networks as a way to alert themselves to planned attacks and street blockades that drug traffickers set up for their operations.
The Mexican news media have also resorted to eliminating reporter bylines whenever they think a story might put a member of their staff at risk, a practice that quite often leads to a loss of credibility.
Last year, Mexico's National Commission on Human Rights registered 80 complaints of attacks against journalists, for a total of 608 over the last decade. In the same period, 66 journalists were killed, nearly half of them during the four years of the current administration of President Felipe Calderon. There have also been 12 reported disappearances of journalists and 18 attacks on media organizations.
No one has yet been brought to trial for any of those crimes.
The attacks against journalists in Mexico are happening in a landscape already littered with bodies. Some 36,000 murders have been reported in Mexico since Calderon took office in December 2006, yet the president
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