By Anna Daniels
On Saturday September 12, virtuoso leona player and poet Laura Rebolloso will perform in a special San Diego benefit concert in which all proceeds will go to support the efforts of independent journalists in Mexico. Pianist Alonso Blanco and percussionist Vladimir Coronel will accompany Ms. Rebolloso.
The urgency of support for Mexican journalists not only within that country but in every country that values freedom of the press is summed up in The Guardian‘s horrifying headline “‘Journalists are being slaughtered’- Mexico’s problem with press freedom.” This is an issue that we are not watching closely enough in this country, primarily because it receives so little main stream media coverage.
A significant portion of Americans, on the other hand, either watched or read about Donald Trump’s response to Univision reporter Jorge Ramos’ questions about Trump’s proposed immigration policies. The interchange ended with Trump telling Ramos to go back to Univision, an unmistakable dog whistle to “go back to Mexico.” It was inconsequential to Trump and his followers that Ramos is an American citizen, or that he is probably the most well- known Latino journalist in the US.
There was a great deal of discussion afterward about the legitimacy of Ramos’ journalism–was it biased? Do journalists have a responsibility for the communities they serve? Are we really committed to an independent press and its efforts to critique power and the powerful?
These critical questions generated a debate that lasted a few news cycles, then disappeared. Which brings us back to Mexico, where journalists are being slaughtered for accepting a responsibility for the communities they serve. They are being slaughtered for their efforts to reveal and critique the most powerful entities in Mexico.
The murder of Rubén Espinosa in Mexico City this past August received an unusual degree of both national and international coverage. This augmented coverage was not simply because his murder was the thirty-fifth in Mexico since 1994. Espinosa had recently left Veracruz, where he no longer felt safe working. It was reported that “Before fleeing to Mexico City, Espinosa was very active within a group of Veracruz journalists who called on state authorities to investigate crimes against murdered journalists.” According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) eleven journalists had been killed in Veracruz since 2010.
Espinosa’s body was found in a Mexico City apartment alongside those of student activist Nadia Vera, two of her housemates and their housekeeper. All had been beaten and tortured according to The Guardian account. Mexico City had been considered a refuge for journalists from both media intimidation and violence.
If journalists are not safe in Mexico City, where in that country can they be safe? What does it mean when the authorities– democratically elected authorities–cannot or will not halt the violence against the press? For those of us who live outside of Mexico, what is our role and responsibility in protecting an independent press there and at home?
These are questions that must endure for longer than a few news cycles. A community of Mexican, US and international journalists remain committed to this issue. Rompeviento provides exceptional coverage from Mexico in Spanish. Ernesto Ledesma, director of Rompeviento, conducted the last interview of Ruben Espinosa before his death. The Guardian has been providing ongoing, in-depth coverage. Here at the San Diego Free Press we stand with that community of journalists.