Columns, Opinion

RENNER: Free speech threatened in Mexico, abroad

A female reporter was dragged from her home in Mexico by gunmen Monday night, NBC reported. Anabel Flores Salazar was a crime reporter in Veracruz, Mexico. This means that she is extremely aware of criminal activity in Mexico — an intimidating job description, to say the least.

In Veracruz alone, 15 journalists have been murdered in the last six years. Just this past August, five gunmen stormed a bar in the nearby town of Orizaba and killed a reporter who was meeting with a supposed drug gang boss.

Mexico has historically been one of the most dangerous places in the world for those who work in the media, and it consistently maintains one of the highest levels of unsolved crimes against the press.

The newspaper where Flores Salazar works, El Buen Tono, has been receiving threatening phone calls from individuals who claim to be members of the Zetas drug cartel. These people are threatening to burn down the newspaper’s office because of stories it’s published in the past.

The office disclosed that Flores Salazar had been in the company of one of Zetas’ leaders in 2014 when he was arrested. Prosecutors told NBC they were investigating “all the reporter’s possible ties,” but crimes of this nature come as no surprise to Mexican authorities.

Mexico has fallen far, far behind when it comes to freedom of the press. The Mexican Constitution gave citizens this most basic right in 1917 in Article 7, which states, “The freedom to write and publish writings on any subjects is inviolable. Neither laws, nor authorities shall execute any kind of previous censorship.” However unfortunate and unforeseen, free speech has certainly provoked crimes as of late.

According to the 2012 Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, Mexico ranks 149 out of 179 in its freedom of the press, showing just how dire the situation is for reporters. The government refuses to protect its journalists against the extremely dangerous drug cartels that continue to ravage the media.

In 2014, the Mexican state of Sinaloa approved a reform that “forbid the press to cover any matter of security,” Latin American news network teleSUR reported. This came at a time when Sinaloa was considered one of the most violent states in Mexico solely because of the heightened power of local drug cartels. Is this an appropriate way to combat attacks not only on the ideal of freedom, but also physically on human beings?

Recently, this question has been posed all over the world. In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack in 2015, columnists and talk show hosts around the world have been discussing the issue of free speech, often finding ways to bash the United States in the process.

Time magazine writer Charlotte Alter’s 2015 article “We Have a Free-Speech Problem in America Too,” mentions the incident in which Justine Sacco, an American PR executive, was fired over controversial tweets. Though she was free to express herself through her tweets, this just shows how freedom of speech is becoming regulated in the social sphere.

If we continue to implement Alter’s method of improper comparison, it looks as if the loss of a job is right on par with the loss of life. So often do we fail to realize how good we truly have it in the United States, when just south of us, journalists are risking their lives for a practice we take for granted every day.

The default action for so many members of the media in instances like this is to criticize. Perhaps it is more entertaining for us to draw out our government’s flaws with a sharp, politically charged needle than to offer thanks for the syringe it provided us in the first place.

As a new crop of journalists joins the American workforce — the millennials — I can only hope that growing up to see so much positive change in this country will help us clear away the cynical dust of those who came before.

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