Journalism in Violent Times: Mexican Journalists' Responses to Threats and Aggressions

Journalism in Violent Times: Mexican Journalists' Responses to Threats and Aggressions

Ruben Arnoldo Gonzalez (Autonomous University of Puebla, Mexico)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1298-2.ch015

Abstract

The aim of this chapter is to describe Mexican journalists' responses to constant threats and aggressions. In doing so, it draws on 93 semi-structured interviews conducted in 23 of the most violent states of the country. The results indicate that violence against news workers has a twofold set of implications for the practice of professional journalism: On the one hand, constant attacks on media staff have promoted the development of a more elaborated journalistic performance, based upon factual reporting, diversification of sources, collaborative coverage, and the creation of journalists' associations. On the other hand, however, in many cases the same situation has also inhibited reporters' and newsrooms' jobs by forcing them to self-censorship and the dependence on government official versions of sensitive issues such as crime news or corruption, amongst other passive routines. The simultaneous coexistence of both outcomes provides evidence of the operation of multiple journalisms within the Mexican media system.
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Background

This section presents a review of the relevant literature and, hence, serves as a context for the empirical evidence that will be presented and analysed in the following pages. In doing so, there are three key issues that will be discussed in this part of the chapter: the endemic state of violence against news workers in Mexico, the concept of journalistic professionalization, and an overview of the limitations to the Mexican journalism practice.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Self-Censorship: In the context of anti-press violence, as a result of a threat or aggression, journalists are forced to hide information about sensitive issues.

Instrumentalization: The control that external actors exert over news outlets, in order to shape the news-making process according to their own interests.

Multiple Journalisms: A diversity of journalistic practices within a region, shaped by the interaction of the political and media systems.

Anti-Press Violence: Different threats and aggressions against media and journalists, which aim to limit freedom of the press and access to information.

Bribery: The act of giving, accepting – and even asking for – money or any other favour, in order to illegally do – or stop doing – something for someone.

Journalistic Professionalization: The observance of a set of norms shared and accepted by news workers. Some of these standards are: Offering more than one side of the story, presenting supplementary facts, using direct quotations from the sources, separating facts from opinions, as well as separating advertising from editorial content.

Coercion: The use of different means – such as bribes or threats – to force someone to do something they do not want to voluntarily do.

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