Mexico’s regional newspapers are failing to report many of the murders, attacks on police and other violence linked to the nation’s war against drug cartels, according to a new analysis reported by ProPublica.org. The Fundacion MEPI, an independent investigative journalism center, studied the crime coverage of 11 regional newspapers and found that the drug-trafficking cartels receive little mention. The data and interviews with journalists show that threats, bribery and pressure are shaping the news delivered to hundreds of thousands of Mexicans who live outside the capital, Mexico City.
Regional journalists told MEPI they routinely do not report the role of the cartels in the mounting violence. They said that with the central government unable to protect prosecutors and police, they feel forced to chose between personal safety and professional ethics. In recent years, the Mexican and international press have reported anecdotally on the intimidation of Mexican reporters. But MEPI’s story provides the first quantitative picture of the problem. The group assembled a list of execution-style murders tied to the cartels by credible national media and then compared it to the coverage in regional papers. (Mexico’s national government declines to release such statistics.) MEPI found that in almost every region, the number of stories each month that mentioned cartel violence amounted to a tiny fraction of the execution-style slayings tied to the cartels.