THE death of Gemaro Perez on Tuesday has a grim significance. The Mexican shot dead at his six-year-old son’s Christmas party is the 12th journalist to be killed so far this year — bringing Mexico equal with Syria as the deadliest country in the world in which to practise the profession.
While it is small comfort to the relatives of reporters kidnapped and put to death by jihadist gangs or blown up by suicide bombers, the reasons it is dangerous for journalists in Syria are obvious.
A brutal war is raging, and rebel groups under the Isis or al-Qaida umbrellas do not even pretend to respect the idea of a free media or worry about limiting civilian deaths.
By contrast, Mexico is supposedly at peace.
And yet “journalists who cover political corruption or organised crime are almost systematically targeted, threatened and often gunned down in cold blood,” according to Reporters Without Borders, whose annual report on the killing of journalists worldwide was published just a day before the latest victim was murdered.
Mr Perez covered dangerous topics — security and drug-trafficking — risking his life to shed some light on the dark reality of Mexico, a country where life is cheap (investigators estimate that over 100,000 people have disappeared over the past decade) and where those who take it can often do so with impunity.
“Nothing and no-one protects us. Criminals have permission to do as they want,” as online journalist Miguel Angel Diaz says.
His point is well illustrated by the death of another journalist, Miroslava Breach Velducea, shot dead in March in the state of Chihuahua for her coverage of gang rivalries in the state. Nine months on, no-one has been brought to justice for her killing, despite authorities saying they knew who was responsible back in April.
The same could be said of the 43 students who disappeared in Iguala three years ago, victims of a crime that independent experts say has never been properly investigated, with leads which point to the involvement of federal forces not followed.
Things are not about to get better in Mexico, but worse: an early day motion put down in our Parliament this week notes that a new public security law gives the army — heavily implicated in the disappearance of the 43 students — the responsibility to carry out policing duties anywhere the president decides to deploy it.
Britain’s media, so quick to shriek “dictatorship!” whenever Venezuela outrages world opinion by holding an election or arresting opposition supporters for garrotting cyclists or burning a young activist to death, are strangely silent when it comes to the grim realities of Mexican politics.
Nor do they worry about press freedom in Argentina, where the entire media falls under the control of the Clarin company that supports the Thatcherite regime of Mauricio Macri, or about democratic niceties in Brazil, where the elected president was turfed out of office last year by crooked senators and where authorities are busy trying to ensure that her popular predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is not allowed a chance to stand at the next election.
Journalists here must show solidarity with colleagues working in dangerous conditions abroad, but the media’s highly selective approach to covering international issues lets down heroes like Mr Perez and Ms Velducea.
The reason is not because journalists here are unconcerned by what happens in Mexico but because Britain’s newspapers and broadcasters are wedded to the agendas of those who own or control them. A socialist country like Venezuela must be demonised; a capitalist country like Mexico is not a problem.
That narrative is a serious obstacle both to understanding what is wrong with our world and to changing it. It falls to the left to do all we can to redress the balance.
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