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Mexico: fear of narco-censorship here

Mexican journalists protesting violence against the media. (photo Guillermo Arias/AP)

For journalists in Mexico, covering the escalating drug wars in that country has long been a deadly pursuit.

At least 64 journalists have been killed since 2000, according to the Mexican National Human Rights Commission. Many of them are never investigated, and very few charges have been laid.

Now, the Mexican media are trying to take steps to protect reporters and prevent drug cartels from controlling coverage.

Last week they signed a 100-point accord, guidelines for how to cover the violence.

The guidelines include jointly publishing stories, so no one media outlet could be targetted for retribution. There are also protocols for what to do when a journalist is in danger, and how to cover crimes with more context, so you don't just find out someone was shot and killed in the main plaza...but that it was in fact the work of the cartels.

In a blog entry for the Committee to Protect Journalists, the CPJ's Mexico representative, Mike O'Connor, writes:

The problem with today's agreement is that organized crime cartels are so powerful in many parts of the country that they will likely be able to block some of the most important elements of the accord with the same intimidation they use to control much of the press already.

Nevertheless, it is important that in Mexico--where crime groups have grown in power and news organizations are among their main targets--that some local and regional news organizations and most national ones have come together to offer a concerted response.

Though 700 media outlets across Mexico signed on to the accord, some didn't, saying they were concerned it restricted press freedom. One journalist from the top newsmagazine Proceso said it "opened the door to a form of prior censorship."

But as Dispatches reported last fall, it's fairly clear journalists in Mexico are already censoring themselves.

Rick spoke with the Los Angeles Times' Mexico City bureau chief, Tracy Wilkinson, who told him many journalists have simply stopped reporting on drug violence altogether, for fear of being targetted by the cartels. She called it "narco-censorship."

Listen to Rick's interview with Tracy from September 2010  

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