Head of Mexico’s largest newspaper chain: Journalist safety challenge amid drug cartel threatsBy Michelle Roberts, AP
Friday, March 26, 2010
Media CEO: Journalist safety a challenge in Mexico
SAN ANTONIO — Journalists and other employees of Mexico’s largest newspaper chain are changing their driving routes, moving to more secure high-rise apartment buildings and keeping their names off stories. But no one has figured out a good formula for protecting them from Mexican drug violence and threats, the chain’s leader said Thursday.
“We have a team of great people we need to protect,” said Grupo Reforma Chief Executive Alejandro Junco de la Vega after addressing a World Affairs Council luncheon in San Antonio. “We recently started to offer bulletproof vests.”
Authorities blame the cartels for wreaking havoc in parts of Mexico with killings, kidnappings, extortion and beheadings. While much of the cartel-fueled violence has been between rival drug gangs, innocent bystanders, wealthy businessmen and journalists have also been targeted.
Junco, who runs the largest print media company in Mexico and Latin America, called the cartel members “terrorists.” He moved to Texas with his family in 2008 under growing threat from the drug cartel operatives, but still commutes to Mexico for work.
“My dear wife once asked me, ‘Do you want to be the greatest journalist in a cemetery?’” he said.
Mexico is considered among the most dangerous countries in the Americas for journalists. In recent weeks, eight journalists were kidnapped in Reynosa, across the Rio Grande from McAllen, Texas, according to the Inter-American Press Association. The kidnappings prompted the McAllen Monitor to prohibit its reporters from traveling to Reynosa.
Some media in Mexico have toned down coverage or stopped reporting about drug violence, fearing for reporters’ safety. But front page headlines in Reforma’s 10 daily newspapers continue to blare news of assassinations, beheadings and shootouts by drug cartels across Mexico.
Junco, who displayed the headlines during the luncheon, said his newspapers sometimes struggle to cover the large number of crimes but are not being censored.
He said his decision to move to Austin, where he studied journalism at the University of Texas in the 1960s, was difficult. He was forced to choose between caving to cartel threats by changing Reforma’s editorial policy or moving his family.
But the self-described lifelong “newspaper man” said Mexico is home and hopes to continue his work there.
Tags: Central America, Drug-related Crime, Health Care Industry, Journalism, Journalists, Latin America And Caribbean, Mexico, North America, Organized Crime, San Antonio, Texas, United States