Self-censorship is our worst enemy and we always look for a way to blame third parties due to our ineptitude, ineffectiveness, fear or limitations to practice journalism as it should be.
What do I mean? The death threats we receive are tiny compared to the times we prefer to be silent because we believe that something could happen to us if we continue with the note. In other words, “overt threats” such as those that Azucena Uresti and other colleagues received are the exception in a universe full of bad practices that impact our profession much more than the times they put a gun to our temples.
And this way of operating of each reporter originates in two very clear variables: 1) the professional preparation to work in “conflict zones” (Mexico) is almost nil and most of the time we exaggerate our fears because ignorance beats us. 2) The government never implemented an effective protection plan that shields us from continuing to work despite threats.
I still remember my first experiences in Colombia with local colleagues who had been assigned custody or mixed security plans that ranged from gasoline to armored trucks and different options depending on the journalist’s level of risk. Do you avoid being attacked? Sometimes yes, sometimes not, and there was always debate regarding government spending and other details, but the initiative showed that the coffee-growing government understood the violent context surrounding the press in their country.
Here, then … we are adrift and the most extreme that we can reach is related to complaints from human rights entities or non-governmental organizations that show solidarity with the intimidated journalist and make the position public to try to make the situation visible.
Given this and adding that most journalists have encountered this war in their streets without even asking to cover it; the result is reduced to hundreds of colleagues who work in extreme situations without knowing the appropriate protocols that empower them as professionals.
And that is why in the first paragraph I named self-censorship as the journalist’s greatest enemy in Mexico and the most hostile cities on the planet. We keep quiet because of our own disabilities, but also because we feel unwell. We are alone and we do not know how to move forward. What happen? It is more common to read incomplete works than surgical X-rays of organized crime or drug trafficking in Mexico. You always have to wait for a book or two because we know that on TV or on paper we will turn it around one way or another. That there are journalists who are the exception? There will always be, but they are the least in a media universe that has been walking this war for decades without understanding how to go through it with the torch lit.
By Santiago Fourcade