Covering the Narco Beat on the Border
In addition to policemen, Mexican reporters have been especially hard hit by drug violence, to the point that Mexico has become one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. Since 2000, around fifty journalists have been assassinated, and hundreds threatened or assaulted, mostly in drug-related incidents.1 Journalists from Ciudad Juárez’s two main newspapers, El Diario de Juárez and Norte, fearing reprisals for their reporting on drug trafficking and drug violence, have requested asylum in El Paso. Both papers have minimized their coverage of drug stories.
Rafael Nuñez’s story typifies the various ways in which drug traffickers and their accomplices attempt to intimidate reporters into silence. Mexican journalists are notoriously poorly paid, although some supplement their paltry earnings by blackmailing politicians or accepting bribes in exchange for writing stories that favor particular politicians or traffickers. So it is important to note that drug-trafficking organizations not only squelch unfavorable news reports, but also attempt to manipulate or extort media coverage favorable to a particular cartel’s perspective or interests. Given how underpaid Mexican journalists are for doing such dangerous work, it is remarkable how many are still willing to risk their lives by publishing stories that incriminate drug-trafficking organizations or high-ranking government officials.
Journalists, in fact, have been the greatest source of inside information about Mexican drug trafficking, since law-enforcement authorities, in addition to having been infiltrated by cartel members, have also been reluctant to publicly divulge details about the drug underworld. Manuel Buendía, the first major print journalist murdered (in 1984) by