Mexican Murders Aim to Censor Social Media

by Liam Sweeney    /  October 6, 2011  / 2 Comments

Note found next to body of Maria Elizabeth Macias. Photo: www.cpj.org

On September 24th the decapitated body of María Elizabeth Macías, editor of the daily newspaper Primera Hora, was found in the Mexican border town, Nuevo Laredo. She was an avid blogger, and was reporting on the drug cartels under the alias, “La Nena de Laredo.”

Near Macías’ body this message was found: “Nuevo Laredo en Vivo and social networking sites, I’m the Laredo Girl, and I’m here because of my reports and yours. For those who don’t want to believe this, this happened to me because of my actions, for believing in the Sedena (army) and Marina (navy)… Thank you for your attention, respectfully, Laredo Girl. ZZZZ.” The sign off represents The Zetas—considered the most violent of the Mexican drug cartels.

The Zetas also took responsibility for two murders earlier the same week. The bodies of a man and woman were found hanging from a bridge in the same town. The message, “This will happen to all the gossips on the internet,” mentioning “El Blog del Narco” and “Al Rojo Vivo,” was signed Z as well.

In recent years, Mexican websites such as Blog del Narco have become increasingly popular as a way to exchange information on the drug war, due to their anonymity and freedom to reveal graphic details of crimes. In August of 2010, Arizona Daily Star reported that “Operating from behind a thick curtain of computer security, in less than six months “Blog del Narco” has become Mexico’s go-to Internet site at a time when the mainstream media are feeling pressure and threats to stay away from the story.”

These most recent cartel-related murders are the latest in a string of violence that is largely responsible for the declining state of press freedom in Mexico. The current desperation of the country’s journalists is exhibited in El Diario de Juarez’s September 18 headline plea, directed toward the cartels: “What Do You Want From Us?”

Gerardo Rodriguez, an editor at El Diario, said to BBC, “We are looking for a peace agreement. No story is worth the life of anyone anymore.”

But as fear and self-censorship rise in the wake of cartel violence, according to Reporters without Borders, “The federal authorities continue to delay implementation of an agreement for protecting journalists that was signed a year ago.”

As the violence that has silenced 37 journalists between 2006-2010 is introduced to the world of social media bloggers from Nuevo Laredo en Vivo remain resilient, but encourage anonymity. Here are some of their posts:

  • Anon9386: Don’t give addresses and names of people. If you do, the Cartel del Golfo (CDG) will kill them and their families.
  • Tatoldo: Users: please don’t sign your comments, give your phone number, or email address, for your own security.
  • Danlaredo: Please, if you want to chat, do it below. This space is just for posting reports and accusations.

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