Journalist violence prevents free speech

Norte-de-Ciudad-Juarez-newspaper-shuts-down-in-protest

Over the last 50 years, journalism has become an increasingly dangerous profession around the world. Following the killing of their third journalist, Norte, a newspaper in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico has decided to shut down. The murder of Miroslava Breach as well as five other acts of violence towards Norte staffers in March indicated that it was no longer safe for the paper to be run.

Breach, a staffer that covered stories about local drug cartels and other forms of corruption, was shot eight times in her home. The gunmen left their mark by leaving a sign reading “tattle-tale.” Breach’s colleagues, columnist Ricardo Monlui Cabrera and freelancer Cecilio Pineda Birto were among the other journalists that were murdered during March.

In its final issue, Norte explained the reasons for its closing which include a lack of funding, bad relationships with local officials, and the rise of violence over the last few months. The closing of Norte brings up the question of whether or not journalists are being denied freedom of speech.  

“Mexico is going through a ‘deep freedom of expression crisis’,” said Carlos Lauría, a senior program coordinator with the Committee to Protect Journalists in an interview with the New York Times. “Adding that the killings and threats are having a chilling effect on the democratic process, reducing the flow of information to citizens and lawmakers and stifling Mexicans’ ability to engage in public debate.”

In addition to the recent killings, the committee has stated that 35 other journalists have been killed due to their profession since 1992. While Mexico is considered one of the deadliest countries for journalists, many areas in the Middle East are also dangerous such as Syria, Iraq, and Egypt.

Unfortunately, the recent outburst of violence towards journalists is nothing new. In 2009, the “Maguindanao Massacre” left 32 journalists dead in the Philippines while according to a Human Rights Watch Report, since 2010, only 6 out of 26 murderers of journalists have been tried and arrested on the island since the tragedy.

While the rise of violence towards journalist may seem foreign, American journalists are facing massive problems of their own. Under the Trump administration, the media has not only been referred to as “fake news,” but also “the enemy of the American people.”

A vast array of issues arise when people do not have access to responsible journalism. A lack of communication makes it easier for the government and certain corporations to pass certain legislation or undermine rules that might otherwise be challenged by the public.

Some ways in which people can lobby for freedom of speech include reaching out to local representatives, filing complaints or lawsuits, and talking to free speech organizations such as the ACLU. In a time of turmoil and chaos, it is critical that free speech be saved. Whether it be from violence or slander, journalists and their work must be protected before it is too late.  

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