New Law Muffles Reporting in Drug War Torn Mexican State
MCALLEN, Texas — A new law passed in the Mexican State of Sinaloa appears to be a step closer to making Mexico a totalitarian regime with absolute control of the media.
Journalists, academics, and the general public in Mexico are concerned about the law which would muffle the media in Sinaloa, one of the states with the highest influence of drug trafficking activity and violence.
Legislators in Sinaloa passed the Organic Law for the State’s Attorney General’s Office (PGJE) earlier this week without any debate, basically banning all original reporting of criminal activity by limiting sources of information to news releases, as well as banning all video, audio, and still photography of persons involved in a criminal endeavor.
The section of the law that applies to media is Article 51, which prohibits all interviews with public officials, limiting potential information to news releases.
“Under no circumstance will news outlets be allowed to enter places of activity, [nor take] audio, video or photography of the persons involved in the criminal event nor [handle] information tied to public safety or the enforcing of justice,” the law states.
The law also limits all interviews of the victims or the suspects, restricting media to interviews with their attorneys.
On Thursday afternoon, Sinaloa Governor Mario Lopez Valdez issued a statement claiming that the state was not trying to commit abuses or shorten the freedom of the press but to allow for “creation of conditions that guarantee the free and safe exercise of the profession.”
As soon as the word of the new law spread, however, journalists from all over Mexico joined forces to denounce it.
“This is a very grave situation” ,said Reyna Luna, President of Colaper USA, a media rights organization and Director of Estrella TV’s Sin Fronteras (Without Borders) newscast and who has done extensive work in Sinaloa. “This hurts the freedom of expression in that State where we know that one of Mexico’s most powerful drug cartels operates.”
It was particularly shameful that the legislators in Sinaloa failed to question the law and simply raised their hands, Luna said, adding, “I pray this doesn’t set up a precedent for other states [to] approve something similar that is so very damaging to the freedom of expression in one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a journalist.”
The steps to muffle the media fall right in line with the authoritarian state that current Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is trying to bring back, said Guadalupe Correa Cabrera, the Chair of the Government department at the University of Texas at Brownsville. Cabrera has researched in-depth the recent political landscape in Mexico and the current drug violence. The professor referred to the way Mexico’s PRI party ruled the country with an iron fist until December 2000, when the rival party PAN came into power and tried to create more of a democracy, only to lose the presidency in November 2012 when Peña Nieto came into office.
“This is very, very dangerous,” Correa Cabrera said. “This is a clear example of [censorship] and falls in line with the attempts made by the federal government to control the media in order to shape the image of Mexico.”
While it is important to make sure that the information that is published is accurate, the professor said, in the case of Mexico, experience has shown that the state can’t be trusted.
“We saw clear examples of this in Tamaulipas when we saw a systemic effort by the state to downplay the violence and minimize the fierce firefights as well as the number of casualties,” Correa Cabrera said. “With this law they are basically imposing an editorial angle on media outlets, and that is very, very dangerous.”
A complete censorship of crime reporting is something that Breitbart Texas reported on earlier this week with the experiences of Chuy, a citizen journalist who has been the target of threats for his work in trying to fill the void left by Tamaulipas news outlets that have stopped reporting on cartel activity.
Follow Ildefonso Ortiz on Twitter: @ildefonsoortiz.