As journalists die so does free speech
Another innocent has fallen in Mexico’s increasingly brutal drug war, and the chance for free society to flourish is falling along with them.
21-year-old intern Luis Carlos Santiago Orozco was slain by gunmen as he went to get lunch at a mall near his office with a fellow intern from the El Diario newspaper in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
Thursday, Sep. 16 was Independence Day, a joyous day of freedom in this city across the southern border from El Paso, Texas, and on this day Orozco would not come home.
This is the second murder of an El Diario journalist in the past two years. The first was the paper’s lead crime reporter, which occurred in front of his house, and remains unsolved.
Since Mexican President Felipe Calderon took office and ordered the military to attack the drug cartels, 22 reporters have been killed in the country, tying it with Afghanistan for ninth most dangerous nation for journalists according to a 2010 report by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
While the 2,150 dead in Juarez during this year alone dwarfs this one killing, the targeting of journalists has a chilling effect on speech.
To his credit President Calderon called the killing an “assault on democratic society” and said he would push to federalize the crime of attacking press.
I agree with the Mexican president statement, and would ask that our own government do more to push back this assault on our own rights to free speech first here in the United States, and around the world.
To that end Laney Tower adviser Burt Dragin asks that we “first be aware of, and then honor our brothers and sisters who have been killed or injured while doing their jobs as journalists.”
So far this year 34 journalists have been targeted and murdered globally, and 454 are living in exile, according to the CPJ.
Also this year that video footage of a 2007 U.S. military strike showing the calloused slaying of a Reuters news agency photographer, among others, was released by the website WikiLeaks. Since 2003 American forces alone have killed 16 journalists and three media workers in Iraq.
Here in our own backyard Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey was murdered just blocks from Laney while working on several stories investigating corruption in the Oakland Police Department, and shady finances of Your Black Muslim Bakery.
Targeting citizens for holding organizations accountable—be they public or private—or for practicing free expression is appalling, but there are dangers far less obvious.
The U.S. State Department recently denied a Colombian journalist a visa to fulfill a Harvard fellowship because he was accused of terrorist activities under the PATRIOT Act when had been in the U.S. in 2007 to receive an award from Human Rights Watch.
Hollman Morris had been reporting on the connections between right-wing paramilitary and senior Colombian government officials, and was one of the journalists whose phones were tapped by the government of former President Alvaro Uribe, a key U.S. ally in South America.
While the situation for reporters in the U.S. is relatively far superior, it is troubling that our government that purports to stand for democracy does not do more to protect the first amendment, for as Thomas Jefferson said, “our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it.”
A version of this piece appeared in the October 14 print edition of the Laney Tower newspaper