Citizen Journalists and Bloggers

Recently, bloggers and citizens have been attacked and killed for reporting the violent events conducted by the cartels. In November, the fourth blogger was killed in Nuevo Laredo by the Zetas cartel since September. Another blogger, 39-year-old Marisol Macías Castañeda was also decapitated in September for posting on social media sites. Two more bloggers were hanged as well next to a sign that read, “This is going to happen to all Internet snitches. Pay attention, I’m watching you.”

Two bloggers hung in September

Even the individual hackers who are part of the group Anonymous have tried and failed to bring down the Zetas cartel, as the group has their own set of hackers who can trace down bloggers who try to report their activities.

However, some Mexican netizens are still braving their lives to take on the cartels and actively report violent incidents that are occurring in the cities around them. Blog de Narco is one such blog that documents events and people in the Mexican Drug War. The blogger, is an anonymous computer security student in his 20s from northern Mexico who uses computer security techniques to obscure his identity.

I was curious as to how these social media has been successful in combating drug related violence and how bloggers view their overall safety so  I reached out to a contact at GlobalVoices. She is a regular contributor and serves as a  journalist, editor, and blogger on Latin and South American isues.  I asked her some questions related to how Mexican bloggers, my questions are italicized and her answers are seen in bullet points:

How effective is citizen reporting on social media about drug related violence in increasing the overall security for individuals and society? (I follow #reynosafollow and #narco)

  • It’s hard to say how truly effective it is, considering that not everyone is online or has access to social media. Less than half of the whole Mexican population uses the Internet, and that number is even smaller for Mexicans that use social media. However, I do think that social media plays an important role in increasing the overall security for individuals, even if it’s just for those individuals that have access to social networks. I think Andres-Monroy Hernández explained it really well in the article “Shouting Fire in a Crowded Hashtag” last year. Because of the “autocensoship” the Mexican mainstream media are using, citizens now have to rely on social media initiatives like the #reynosafollow hashtag to keep up with what’s going on in terms of security and narco-related crime

In lieu of the events in Nuevo Laredo, are bloggers and citizens afraid that they will be injured or killed for reporting information on the cartels more, the same, or less than traditional journalists?

  • I think it depends on the blogger or the journalist (what topics they cover, for example). But in general, I think citizens and bloggers are more afraid than traditional journalists. When the events in Nuevo Laredo took place last year, we had a long email conversation on the issue with my Mexican authors. One of them told me that his friends (bloggers) were very afraid; they were starting to use more pseudonyms and were frustrated about the whole thing. They didn’t want to fall into the mainstream’s media “autocensorship,” but they asked him to be extra careful with what he tweeted. For a while, right after those horrible episodes, I think bloggers were very scared. Many received threats via email or by phone. Their greatest fear, I think, comes from not having the “back-up” of a media company. If a blogger is kidnapped, for example, who will put pressure on rescuing him or her? or if a blogger is murdered, there’s no media outlet behind him/her with the means to carry out an investigation. That’s not to say that traditional journalists are not afraid; we’ve seen that many traditional journalists have been killed in Mexico, and nothing has been done to better that situation. But when a journalist is out to get a story, they can tell their editor where they are going, they can plan and take special safety measures; when citizens capture a story and publish it online, it usually just happens in that moment, and they are much less likely to have developed a plan for their safety beforehand. It’s very important for traditional and citizen journalists to learn how to be safe online.

Do you know of any particular Mexican bloggers writing on this topic that I could follow on Twitter, and/or contact to ask about their experiences?

  • I think the people behind would be GREAT to contact. I have not seen any bloggers writing specifically about this; bloggers touch on the subject, but because of safety issues I haven’t seen bloggers focus on this exclusively.



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