With Journalists Targeted In Mexico's Drug War, Social Networks Step In



MEXICO CITY – Ciudad Victoria, a city in one of the most dangerous states in Mexico today, Tamaulipas, was recently flooded with brochures offering money for information on the people behind a project called "Valor por Tamaulipas" (Courage for Tamaulipas).

The project is indeed courageous, aiming to diffuse information regarding violence in the state, through social networks, like Facebook and Twitter. Valor por Tamaulipas offers practical information about what streets or neighborhoods to steer clear, the place where people are being mugged, reports of extortion or information about missing people. The project has into a veritable local media outlet that reflects the situation of insecurity in the state.

La Crónica reports that the brochures that appeared throughout Ciudad Victoria read: “600,000 pesos for the people who will bring us information regarding the owners of the website Valor por Tamaulipas or in that case, any of their family members.”

“Social networks without a doubt have become an information apparatus, while journalism is cornered and silenced” said Darío Ramírez, director for “México y Centroamérica de Artículo 19”, an organization that defends freedom of expression in Mexico and Central America.

Mexico is the second most dangerous country for journalists according to Reporters Without Borders. Since 2000, 93 journalists have been murdered in Mexico, 76 since 2006, when ex-president Felipe Calderón declared the “frontal fight against drugs,” the Press Emblem Campaign recently reported.

In July 2012, El Mañana, Nuevo Laredo’s Daily announced that they would stop publishing information regarding violent acts produced by criminal gangs after their headquarters was attacked with grenades for the second time in the year.

El Excelsior reports that faced with such a scenario, the anonymity granted by the Internet provides an alternative for people eager to inform and be informed about violence in their cities. Dozens of websites, blogs and social media profiles have sprung up to cover many events that traditional media may find difficult to report.

Unfortunately, the identity of the people behind these new media outlets is never 100% safe either. In late 2011, four people were murdered in the city of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas for denouncing organized crime actions through a blog. Two of them were hung from a bridge and another two decapitated with messages that read: “for typing too much”.

Given the situation, Valor por Tamaulipas, responded “I will not play hero, I play the hopeful believer that is clinging to the hope that one day this will change.”

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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