8:37 A.M.: Day two of the ASNE/IAPA Summit has started. First panel is entitled The Role of the Mexican Government. The panelists are Gustavo Salas Chavez, Special Prosecutor for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression, Mexican Attorney General’s Office and Raul Plascencia Villanueva with the Human Rights Commission. The moderator is Eric Olson, Senior Associate for Security Policy.
8:41 A.M.: Villanueva is not present. Olson noted that Chavez is under the weather and that the group will cut him some slack for it, but not too much.
8:43 A.M.: Chavez: On July 5 of this year the Prosecutor creates a committee overlooking crimes against Freedom of Expression (in Mexico).
We can now ask for information that is considered classified. This is something that was only available to prosecutors and other authorities.
We deal with issues of homicides of journalists, disappeared journalists and violations of freedom of expression.
I can give you some information of people who were journalists but who died because of traffic accidents.
When we have all the information and it is processed so that we can look at coincidences that happened.
To follow the law, we don’t have to break it. We have a legal framework and guidelines as far as the treaties that have been signed and we are following these laws.
Regarding the crimes committed against journalists we have 107 files…we also have the authority to work with the states, in coordination with [them].
Previously we only had 5 cases, and they were all from previous years.
Many of the cases are not related to freedom of expression or the press. In one of the cases we identified it was a youngster threating a journalist. We sent it to the local authorities so they could take care of it because it was a minor.
Now regarding the goals we have for next year…we are going to restructure the office. We are reworking this project. We will be able to implement precautionary measures in order to carry out investigations regarding threats from electronic media. Right now we do not have the appropriate mechanisms to deal with those threats. We have to find out things like I.P. addresses.
We will work very hard to gain your trust…we need to follow the law we need to protect our guidelines so we could have a well established democracy and a protected press.
9:10 A.M.: Audience member asking about specific cases of Mexican journalists where no information has been released.
Chavez: We do not have anything new regarding the investigation. We are relying on the investigation of the state. Regarding Antonio Franco, thanks to the support of the citizens and society of Inter-American Press we have some advances. What I can tell you right now is that we are following all the diplomatic channels, we have worked with the US embassy. I am here to comment on some of the details but it is an issue that has been clarified. It is very difficult because it is not a traditional homicide investigation..when you involve organized crime it is even more difficult because evidence is lost. The primary source of information are witnesses and…in many of the cases in Northern Mexico we do not have the witnesses or not willing to [release information.] We are going to build the case..and follow different lines of investigation.
9:15 A.M.: Question presented on how a case of a journalists is handled different.
Chavez: In a homicide we find that the crime scene is the first source of evidence. You are not going to have that when people disappear.
We have 67 cases of homicide and we agree on only 11 disappeared journalists. We have a higher number in our office…we have reported 3 more cases than the number the commission has because we are not applying any protocols because we don’t have any more information whether that crime was comitted regarding freedom of the press.
States with the highest number of homicides of journalists: Chihuahua, Tamaulipas and Guerrero with 11 each. There is a higher number reported but not documented in Guerrero.
9:25 A.M.: Reporter from El Diario de Juarez asking about Chavez about the case of a murdered reporter from El Diario de Juarez.
Chavez: First of all I’m not in the custom of lying; first for conviction and second because of the law. You know that the case of Armando, from the very beginning, is under the jurisdiction of the local authorities. We at the PGR have a report, that is true, but the matter is with the local authorities.
All of the homicides have to be investigated all of them when they regard journalists they need to be investigated and…[we need] to send a signal because they will not be tolerated.
I want to share my information with you and reiterate my commitment to work with you…
These are investigations that are very profound…I am willing and I am at your disposal but with a criteria.
(Same El Diario Reporter) Are you saying that you have a confession?
Chavez: I cannot give you any information regarding that.
What have you done [with the information you have]?
Chavez: We are working with it. We are developing it.
9:37 A.M.: Even when you say that you have already accumulated cases, that doesn’t speak about responsibility…are you willing to go ahead and prosecute these cases in a criminal fashion?
Chavez: I am not the director of human affairs. I am dedicated to only matters that involve journalists. I have taken this responsibility and I have the obligation to do it promptly. My vocation is only institutional. I am not an investigator of internal affairs.
9:44 A.M.: Session has ended. Next Panel is entitled Reporters on the Line of Fire.
Panelists: Sandra Rodriguez Nieto, Investigative Reporter from El Diario de Juarez
Adriana Gomez Licon, El Paso Times Reporter
Jorge Luis Aguirre, Editor of lapolaka.com
Moderator: Diana Fuentes, Laredo Morning Times
9:48 A.M.: Alejandro Hernandez Pacheco has been added to panel ( a photographer who was kidnapped, now in the US seeking asylum)
9:49 A.M.: Licon: I identify myself as a journalist when I get to Juarez. When things don’t look as safe, I take my badge off and I introduce myself with my name. I try to not put myself out [there as a journalist].
I do try to be very clear that when they answer [me] it is clear that it will be published. Sometimes they don’t know that their name will be used.
We try to do a good job of doing profiles of people who are there everyday.
I try to constantly move from one place to another. I wish I could stay in a place longer, and talk to people more. They do want to tell their stories. They do want to tell you that their son is missing…they just worry that if they talk to the press it will affect them.
9:57 A.M.: Nieto (speaking in Spanish) presenting a powerpoint on the work from El Diario de Juarez.
We try to cover most of the homicides….
For this story, there were 5 victims. There was no way of knowing if they were related or not. The perimeter was secure. I couldn’t talk to the neighbors. Finally I talked to someone who was close to the mother of the victims. I found out [the victims were] 4 sons and the husband. The mother is the one who found them. She heard the mother of the victims scream so she went over there to try and help. This was a very dramatic scene. This is the type of information that we can get from the crime scene.
10:02 A.M.: Nieto presenting a slide of a funeral following the massacre of teenagers who were at a house party. This was a way for her to profile another side of the story.
10:05 A.M.: PDF of El Diario de Juarez front page headline reading: Asesinar no tiene consequencias aqui (Killing has no consequences here)
10:14 A.M.: Nieto: We have a database with 900 homicides in 2008. We payed a student to input the information that the authorities were giving: age, type of weapons, type of crime. We have homicides all over the city but it was concentrated in areas that were low-income. It was a good indication that the crimes had to do with poverty. It was interesting the conditions in that area. We found memorials all over [the street with the most homicides].
10:15 A.M.: Pacheco: I want to talk to you about that the war is also in other parts. I come from Laguna…I work with a reporter from Televisa. We were kidnapped on July 26, outside of the Gomez Palacio. We were coming from covering a story…It turns out that they were letting the prisoners out to commit murders and we were investigating the story. There was also a family gathering. We were there July 23. We went from Mexico City to ask for support from Televisia-Laguna because our [reporter] couldn’t come.
We went into the prison and asking them question. There were a lot of soldiers and policemen. There were other journalists, but just observing. We were taking video.
We decided to go to the airport and that’s when we got stopped by 4 armed men and they got into our car and put guns to our heads and told us to follow another vehicle…They were asking whether we had GPS and who we worked for. We kept tell them we were only working for Televisa.
Then, they took us on a dirty road. We kept telling them we were there working. They wanted us to tell them we were working with the cartel.
They said they were going to kill us and then burn us. They had us like that for an hour, with a shirt over [our heads] so we could not see. They wouldn’t feed us, give us water. They said they were going to hurt our families and I truly believed them.
In the end we were let go. The police said they had rescued us. From there they took us from that house to another one. I was in the trunk and Javier was in the backseat of the car. I thought they were driving us to kill us. They take us to another house. I tell my colleagues I didn’t want to die. I wanted to defend myself.
After an effort of escaping they beat us. But did not kill us. I had already tried to escape and did not try again. I was proud because i tried to escape. I knew my children would be proud because I tried to escape.
We were taken to a parking lot adn told to get out and hold hands. They told us to run. My thought was they are going to run us over or kill us.
The abuse was very bad. We found the federal police at the corner were we were beat. They came to pick us up and I did not know if it was negotiated. The police took us to Mexico City for a news conference were the President said he wanted to talk to us.
We were like a spectacular act for the benefit of the police even though we did not want to be there.
10:34 A.M.: Aguirre talking about threats and criticism he received for his writing for Lapolaka.
“I told my friend, I don’t understand, and my friend said they are going to fuck you. So I stopped writing about the government.”
I get a call and they say, “Jose Luis Aguirre?” I said, “Yes.” They said, “you’re the next one, you son of a bitch.”
I turn to get back home but I don’t get there. I call my wife I tell her to get the kids out of school. She comes to get me, and we cross the border and we have been here ever since. I recieved asylum last September. I hope that protection were extended to others.
Quite frankly, journalism in Mexico is hell.
10:39 A.M.: Panel is now open to questions.
10:45 A.M.: To what extent does the challenge exist to get information about the cartels themselves, not just victims.
Licon: The challenge is there to talk about the cartel and how the interact with government. We do profile candidates. The current mayor of Juarez…we kept mentioning that his chief of police of arrested for bribing a customs officer. When I do a story I do try and ask those questions.
Pacheco: It’s not easy [to be getting that type of coverage.]
What do you believe they [the cartel] are going to gain? What do you think they want to gain by controlling the media?
Licon: The ones that are concerned are the politicians. The Narcos could care less who they kill.
11:04 A.M.: The Role of the Foreign Press panel beginning.
Panelists: Angela Kocherga, Belo TV
Tim Johnson, Mexico City Bureau Chief for McClatchy Newspapers
Kathy Corcoran, Mexico City Bureau Chief for The Associated Press
Johnson: Acapulco seemed like a safe place then it was not. Tamaulipas seams like a very violent city. General media cant cover anything. So its difficult to get a feel from the local media of the multitude that’s going on in Mexico.
Moderator asked question regarding the interest of the U.S. in Mexico.
Corcoran: The interest of Mexico int he United States right now is huge! I think that the U.S. has taken a huge interest in what’s going on. Our job is to inform people.
Johnson: I think that there is a huge interest in Mexico from the U.S.’s part.
Kocherga: People here “oh more dead bodies”, some think how many is to many, its important that we cover it, and this is why. We are educating people across the states and its right across the border!
Moderator asked question regarding feeling safe in Mexico.
Johnson: I feel safest when I’m with a Mexican journalist in an old beat up car, you want to fit in. The last thing you want is to draw less attention.
Kocherga: I’m always riding around in a big SUV with the camera guy right next to my side, and the windows rolled down. In Juarez we try making ourselves most visible, we want them to know we are not one of the ‘bad guys’ they are fighting with.
We are always on the look out for everything, some payed journalists spy on journalists working for cartels. We used to feel safe because we were international journalists they don’t want international problems, but things have changed, hit men don’t wait around and trying to figure out who you are.
Moderator asked question regarding using different sets of ethics in the U.S. and in Mexico.
Corcoran: There is really no difference at all in trying to get information. We use the same standards.
Johnson: We try and apply the same ethics across the border. The only difference is the methods of getting the information.
Kocherga: We are careful in writing our stories, for example the ‘nino sicario’ (the child killer). We don’t want to publish it because its a kid, but we want people to know whats going on at the same time.
11:31 A.M.: Panel now open to questions.
Question regarding Mexican army escorting a foreign corespondent out of an unsafe situation. What are safety protocols?
Corcoran: We do not rely on the Mexican army to protect us. We go in with our own safety measures and escape plans.
NAHJ president asking if we can extend protection to Mexican colleagues when asking for help.
Johnson: I think it’s a good idea. Foreign corespondents should be better organized, and they can do something to help Mexican journalists, but it just hasn’t happened yet.
Corcoran: It has to happen at the executive level. If I say something, it’s very different from the AP, the largest news organization, to say something. We have to find a way that we can safely stand up to these influences because if we don’t they win. It has to be done at a higher level.
What has happened to the story of all the women in Juarez who’s bodies were found scattered all over the city?
Kocherga: A lot of people have given up on trying to get those stories solved. It’s just another example of impunity. You see more women getting killed because they were in cross fires, or they are involved. Those murders have become almost a non-issues, unfortunately.
Lopez (from the audience): We have Diana Washington Valdez on our staff ,who was the lead reporter of the femicide, and we will continue to look at that. The other issue we are looking at is women who are stepping up to lines and taking charge as police. We will be very vigilante in tracking the femicides through Diana’s reporting.
11:44 A.M.:Observation from audience member is that foreign reporters will not work together because they are all competing against each other.
Question: I think we are going through a period of anti-Mexican sentiment. How do we make the general public understand that what happens in Mexico is really important to this nation? How do we communicate to a public that is not open to…Mexicans in general?
Corcoran: I think anti-Mexican sentiment has been out there for a long time. It is the traditional American fear of the “other.” People think that people coming from Mexico are a different case. I think the only difference is that the demographic is much bigger. With time, as Tim said, will change.
By just telling real stories, it shows the context of why people are coming here. By just reporting the truth, we are offering a different view.
What is the process to identify if a source is reliable or not. How easy is that access?
Corcoran: Mexico is a very big, diverse place, so if they want to spin a story a certain way we can verify it…One thing that really hampers us is the justice system. When they get people and they say this person committed 800 murders, we can’t verify that…as journalists then we have to go back and do the investigation and verify that.
Question regarding the role the U.S. plays in the drug war and why it’s not really covered.
Johnson: You hear this all the time, the consumers are in the United States…this problem is generalized. This is a problem that is widespread. This is not just a U.S. caused problem.
Corcoran: The issue is that in the US, drug abuse is an old story. We’ve had our domestic explosions…what’s new about the story right now is how it has exploded on the border in the U.S. because of U.S. policy that pushed it out of Colombia. Mexico is the new story in the Drug War. Drugs in the U.S. is old news. That’s why you see that imbalance in reporting.
12:00 P.M.: Panel has ended. Luncheon with keynote speaker Alejandro Junco de la Vega, CEO and Chairman of Grupo Reforma in Mexico City will begin in just a moment.
12:14 P.M.: Robert Rivard introducing Junco.
12:18: Junco: I am often presented as a voice for my people, but I want to begin today by passing the microphone to someone else. Her name is Perla.
Video showing featuring a woman named Perla talking. She is talking about the situation she lives in, with low wages and everything more expensive. At the end, she says she is tired of being silent.
Junco: Ladies and Gentlemen, at a certain moment no matter how patient you may be, you get to point where you have to say enough.
There are many in my country who feel like Perla….her rage is real. It is shared across Mexico.
The Mexico that Perla speaks of is only a partial portrait…her list is that of only one person and it is incomplete.
Junco showing slide of an article featured in the New York Times about job creation and how a lot of money has come into those communities.
Next slide says: The teachers union (SNTE) controls the educational system and sells its constituency to the highest bidder. People in Mexico can pass down their tenure, even if they are not teachers.
Junco: We sent a reporter dressed as a car washer to get a job on the streets…the moment he started washing car, the other war washers came and told them they couldn’t do it, so they called the police.
The drug cartel is one of the cartels, but there are many others. List of “Cartels:”
One company explores and drills
one oil refining company
one gasoline distribution company
three banks ect.
Junco: Everything I read in your newspapers about our violence is true, and then some.
When we celebrated our anniversary, I was about to address our group when someone delivered me the latest news. A grenade was thrown into…our office in Monterrey.
It is valid to declare I am mad as hell and I am not going to take anymore…but how can we expect better days if we don’t understand what got us to this.
All the generations have no faith in the leadership. The younger ones have lost faith in their future.
Democracy cannot endure if the roots of the system have rotted.
(After saying that a movie or TV hero cannot save Mexico)
There is one TV hero who could be of some use to us. Some of you might know him because you have watched the T.V. series Dr. House….we need our own Dr. House…who among these doctors is looking at the picture (of Mexico) as a whole?
(House focuses on the “big picture,” not on a specific problem or patient).
12:44: Junco: When people look at Mexico’s problems, and say that we simply need to send in more troops, then we are relying on the fantasy of Kiefer Sutherland, not on a diagnosis of Dr. House. This is no different than telling an athlete to run faster, instead of looking that it might be a ruptured spleen.
We avoid making romantic diagnosis…Dr. House tracks backs looking for patterns. This is what we tell our reporters to do. We want to find the answers to our problems through wise thoughts, not by placing blame.
12:52 P.M.: Junco: We are done with silver bullets. We seeks tools for action. I am not blind to the immensity of the challenge, but I am also not blind to..history.
By bringing out the good, by bringing justice…we can put an end to Perla’s rage.
12:54 P.M.: Junco finished speaking. He will take some questions now.
How do you cover in areas like Monterrey when Narcos are governing?
Junco: That’s the 64,000 question. The problem is there is no road map. One thing that we have tried to be very stubborn is simply saying, “we are not in your game.” We are not supported any groups. We are not doing anything other than being professional journalists. I fear that that may not be possible in the future. There is a price to be paid. There is a risk.
Ricardo Trotti asking what does Mexico need for greater unity among the media.
Junco: One of our ideas to protect our safety was to not reveal our identities…change routes ect. Once in a while there are certain things that happen that bring out that reality. Not long ago we had an execution very close to our headquarters. Our reporter and photographer got to the scene before anyone else. When the others came it was mind-boggling to see that a cameramen was filming not the crime scene but which reporters were there. Very frequently you don’t know who’s on the other side of the table. That’s the challenge.
1:11 P.M.: “A lawyer who does not use lies in a Mexican courtroom is a fool.” Junco
How can we allow for a free-flow of information in Mexico. How can we face this dramatic censorship.
Junco: We’ve had a lot of pressures that have to do with an andedocte. A man wanted to buy a camel so he went to the merchant and the merchant told him about a specific species. “He will do everything,” the merchant tells him. So he purchased it and complains that the camel is not doing anything. He is just lazy, eats all day. So the merchant tells him, “sell it.” The man asks him how to do that? The merchant tells him, you have to talk good about the camel.
We are under pressure to talk good about the camel. Not only do we have pressure from the Narcos, we have pressure from enterprise.
Is there another revolution in Mexico’s future?
Junco: No there will be no other revolution. We are suffering from something worse than hunger. It is malnutrition, political, judicial, and economic.
1:19 P.M.: Junco giving closing statements. The group will now have lunch. The sessions will resume at 2:00 P.M.
2:01 P.M.: The Summit is resuming. Organizers handing out certificates of recognition to the sponsors.
2:02 P.M.: Next speaker is the owner of El Diaro de Juarez, Osvaldo Rodriguez Borrunda. The paper has lost three journalists to the violence.
2:05 P.M.: Rodriguez: Twenty five years ago, we began to notice the beginnings of what at that time was known as the Juarez cartel, a phenomena that we considered a huge threat to our borderlands even though the drug-trafficking industry had a strong presence in our state.
2:09 P.M.: Rodriguez outlining the way that El Diario tried to reach out to to other papers to expose what was going on in Juarez. He also talked about how the Maquila sector brought an economic boom in the city and with it came social conflict.
2:12 P.M.: Rodriguez: El Diario was the target of a boycott by local businesses that accused the paper of being leftist. The businesspeople claimed that El Diario was opposed to the growth of the maquila….in reality the only thing these businesspeople were trying to protect were their own interests. History ended up proving that our investigation had been correct.
2:15 P.M.: Rodriguez is talking about the story of the killings of women in Juarez. He says, “In the midst of this situation, the black legend of the dead women of Juarez also grew, a myth whose origins only those of us who have been attuned to what is happening in the city understand.” He said that it was a murder of 300 women that occurred over ten years, which is a low murder rate when compared to other parts of the nation.
Earlier, El Paso Times editor Chris Lopez noted that the El Paso Times has continued to cover the story of the “femicide,” specifically noting the work of reporter Diana Washington Valdez, who has published a book on the case. Washington Valdez is also sitting in the audience.
Rodriguez said this in his speech, “A reporter from an English daily newspaper from this city, published her own book on the topic which included a series of exaggerations and fantasies that joined a chorus of other voices that already was already publicizing, in a very irresponsible manner, the situation about gender crimes.”
2:25 P.M.: Next panel has started. IAPA’s Rapid Response Unit.
Maria Idalia Gomez, Dario Fritz, both part of IAPA Rapid Response Unit in Mexico City. The moderator is Julio Munoz, IAPA Executive director
2:33 P.M: Fritz: In the case of organized crime when a journalists gets taken or is killed, the case falls into the federal government.
2:40 P.M. Moderator: In Mexico not only do journalists die, but Mexicans die. Only 2% of those crimes have been resolved. Where are the rests? Where are the criminals who killed Jimenez Mota. What is the biggest problem facing impunity in Mexico?
Gomez: Justavo Salas confirms today that there was no database of the crimes. He didn’t even say they were looking for vehicles that the journalists disappeared in. This means they are pretending to practice justice.
We should investigate all cases [included those that may be “corrupt”].
Munoz: Is it the Narcos that kill or is there another group that is killing in Mexico? Who is behind all of these deaths?
Fritz: Mexico has the component of corruption where the police and the military generate that type of aggression to the journalists. We don’t know how involved the police is. We have other types of aggressions: intimidation, threats censorship, or beatings. The issue is not only drug trafficking.
Munoz asking about President Calderon.
Gomez: They have done nothing, even though they are acting like they are.
2:56 P.M.: Fritz: “Borunda was asking why journalists aren’t joining together, but he did not answer his own question.”
2:57 P.M.: Session has ended.
3:00 P.M. The Colombian Experience
Carlos Mauricio Flores, Executive Editor, El Heraldo, Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Diana Calderón, Unidad de Respuesta Rápida SIP, Bogotá
Gonzalo Marroquín, President, AIPA
Moderator: Robert Rivard, San Antonio Express-News
Flores: Former president, Manuel Zelaya, declared enemy of state to everyone that manifested against his political project. The situation worsened after the installation of president Michelleti’s government.
Nine journalist have been killed this year, there are no arrests to this day and there is no information on the possible motives of the murders, but it’s clear the “official blindness” towards these crimes.
The impunity and lack of justice is an obstacle to learn if the murders were directly related to journalists’ exercise of their profession.
Rivard to Marroquín: What is your perspective about the situation in Honduras and Mexico?
Marroquín: There is a common denominator in what happens in Mexico, Honduras and Colombia: impunity. We could see this as a problem two decades ago that is why the SIP creates the program Impunidad in 1997.
“Impunity promotes more killings of journalists.” That is why the SIP is working on a hemispheric project to promote the resolution of crimes against journalists.
Calderón: The success in the process against impunity in Colombia is related to the pressure that SIP exercised to the police and judges. It’s also related to the awareness campaign developed through advertising.
An important element to this success was the level of engagement of the government which made a commitment to protect journalists developing a journalist protection program. They defined the parameters to establish who was in risk and how to protect them. The attorney general committed in 2002 to create a special unit to prosecute crimes against journalists. The SIP does a monthly monitoring on progress and there’s been 21 sentences since then.
Six years ago there was an average of 12 journalists killed in a year, and now there is only one a year.
Media has to work to protect themselves against violence that directly affects them. We have to work as a group. In Colombia there are examples of joint work with great results. Several news media organizations have mobilized team groups to the conflict areas, and published stories at the same time. This sends a message to those that commit crimes against journalists.
Rivard to Calderón: Tell more about the protection program
Calderón: The committee receives a complaint from a journalist, then the committee meet to evaluate the problem and communicates with local authorities to provide with the appropriate resources to protect the journalist. Some of the protection includes armored vehicles to to their work and surveillance to their homes.
Another important thing to mention is that the Código de procedimiento penal (law) from 2001 increased the sentences for crimes against journalists. This is an important aspect to consider in other countries.
3:45 P.M. Flores: There is no progress over impunity if there is no support from organizations that protect the freedom of the press and human rights. We have to train our journalists, specially those who work in rural areas because they don’t know how to measure risks. We are not prepared to cover operations that involve high risks, we are not prepared to investigate money laundry for example.
3:48 P.M. Session ended.
Alfredo Carbajal, ASNE International Committee co-chair, thanks to participants and sponsors, closes the summit and announces that a final joint report from ASNE/AIPA will be email to all attendants.