49 Risky Journalism – Sarah Stewart

Author: Sarah Stewart, Pima Community College

Individuals all around the world have a passion for writing. Writing about politics, news, technology, etc. Journalism is a profession where an individual writes and reports from a newspaper, magazine, or a website. Does not sound like a dangerous profession, well it can be if you are in a corrupted location. There were twenty journalists killed in 2021 (CPJ, 2021). Deaths had confirmed from South America to the Middle East and listed as murdered, crossfire, to dangerous assignment. The positive contribution of journalism is reporting news going on in the world and transparency. Being open no matter how horrible the situation is. The negative aspect of journalism is individuals who want to suppress the news and they act against the journalist. Innocent journalists risk their lives to expose issues happening in their community, but their safety becomes vulnerable. Government or high elected officials become the harasser.

Gustavo Sánchez Cabrera was murder in Morro Mazatán, Mexico on June 17, 2021. Gustavo was a reporter on Panorama Pacífico Facebook-based news outlet in the Oaxacan coastal city of Huatulco. He enrolled in a federal protection program due to attempted assassination and death threats a year before. He never received the protection weeks prior to his murder. Two individuals crashed their vehicle into Gustavo’s motorcycle, when the men exited their vehicle, they confronted Gustavo and shot him in the head. There was a bullet casing found at the crime scene. Also, his son was riding with him on the motorcycle and was a witness to the incident, he had minor injuries to the motorcycle reck. On June 13, 2020, Gustavo survived his first murder attempt. He suffered shots and cared for at a local hospital. Gustavo was reporting a crime to state authorities about the local Mayor Vilma Martínez of Santo Domingo Tehuantepec over the journalist’s reports on corruption in the local government. A man named Esteban de la Cruz was accountable for conveying it out the attack and the Mayor Vilma Martínez order Esteban too (CPJ, 2021). “The Undersecretariat of Human Rights, of the Ministry of the Interior, notified the government of Oaxaca, as well as the municipality of Tehuantepec to grant precautionary measures in favor of Sánchez Cabrera, considering he was at risk. The Mechanism Board also requested the company that provides the security service to give Sánchez Cabrera an assistance button with a location device as an immediate response system.” (Boarderlane Beat , 2021) It is incredible unfortunate that Gustavo did not receive the protection. If he did receive the protection, would he still be alive? Since it was the government of Oaxaca responsibility to supply protection, yet the government is corrupt. Was it the local governments plan along to not supply protection and to assassinate Gustavo?

Safety is the number one priority in journalism today. Since 2011 there have been 626 journalists gone missing. There have been 2,458 journalists imprisoned since 2011. Confirmed deaths of journalists since 2011 is 564 (CPJ, n.d.). On the Committee of Protect Journalists website they offer a link for safety resources. It first list “pre-assignment preparation,” it includes safety guidelines, planning, training, insurance, personal protective equipment, medical, trauma, and digital preparedness. CPJ provided post-incident aid and Covid19 safety. With something so simple as being a journalist and report the news, there are safety guidelines the CPJ recommends. Journalists go to dangerous areas, war ridden countries, high drug traffic areas, third world countries, or areas where the government is corrupt.

Another perspective is important in journalism is human rights. It is our human right to voice our opinion or raise awareness of an acceptable and unacceptable topics. How is one going to make the world better if no one report about what is happening? There are countries that ignore human rights for example Nigeria, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. With this said, middle eastern have a completely different culture in general. There are human rights journalists help individuals in countries like Nigeria or Iraq. They are fighting for people who have no rights like women and young girls. Jason Burke reported human rights crisis in the middle east for instance South-Sudanese people forced to cross into countries such as Uganda, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo and their struggles as they cross borders in look for of asylum.

To be a part of journalism, you must be transparent. If you do not want to supply transparency, you are giving fake facts or news. “Transparency permits quality evaluations by the audience and thus can strengthen credibility.” (Meier, 2009) There are four pillars of ethical journalism: to respond with accuracy, clarity, and fairness, acknowledge mistake and quickly fix them, expose unethical conduct in journalism, and lastly, encourage civil dialogue to the public. Corrupt area’s dislike transparency because they do not want an individual to expose the truth of what is hiding behind closed doors for example Gustavo Sánchez Cabrera. It puts individuals in jeopardy, journalists risk their lives for a story for only exposing the truth.

Such as Gustavo’s tragic death, government corruption and censorship are to blame. “Jacinto Rodríguez Munguia’s chapter is an exploration of a remarkable 41-page secret police document, apparently from 1965, that talks in general terms about the government’s media strategy. Through manipulation of the media, they wrote, “a democracy such as Mexico’s can achieve levels of popular control equivalent of those that a dictatorship . . . might only achieve through violence and terror” (Gillingham, 2018). Even though this was written 65 years ago this violence and terror is still going on to this day. “In 2017, more Mexican journalists were killed than in any country other than Iraq and the active war zone of Syria. Reporters without Borders’s 2018 rankings for press freedom placed Mexico 147th out of 180 countries—the lowest ranking of any country in Latin America other than Cuba” (Gillingham, 2018). Corruption is a big problem and doesn’t get resolve unless there is a civil or revolutionary war within the country. So, the corruption is going to continue to happen. Censorship defined as the suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security. There are many countries that try to censor journalist or the media. Some succeed or fail. The more countries that continue to censor the media, the bigger problems they must hide from their citizens and the world. Further the censorship and manipulation, the more control they have of everyone.

Innocent journalists risk their lives to expose issues happening in their community, but their safety becomes vulnerable. Government or high elected officials become the harasser. There are quite a few factors that goes into journalism, but many to keep you safe. With issues of transparency, safety, censorship, corruption, false imprisonment, murder, and human rights, I believe there should be a universal law through every country for journalism. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals #16 promotes peaceful and inclusive societies for all sustainable development. Within Goal #16, target 16.10, “Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements” (United Nations, 2021). This goal will help protect individuals in journalism. Journalist should be considered as an elected official and guarded like one. They promote free speech and transparency for every individual in this world. No individual should be treated horribly over stories they compose.


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Meier, K. (2009, September). Retrieved from Academia: https://www.academia.edu/11543629/TRANSPARENCY_IN_JOURNALISM_Credibility_and_trustworthiness_in_the_digital_future?pop_sutd=true

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