A Mexican journalist forced to leave the country out of fear for her life has provided an account of how Tamaulipas media was coerced by the Zetas, detailing her experiences and offering a personal look at the dangers and violence faced by journalists in Mexico.
Using the pseudonym "Raquel Suma" the former editor of a newspaper in Mexico's northeastern state of Tamaulipas -- an area disputed by the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas -- related her experiences to Sin Embargo. When the Zetas arrived, she said, violence against journalists began.
"Things work like this: the Zetas call you by telephone. They have all your numbers: your cell phone, the office, your house. They contact the reporter that is responsible for covering police stories and send a bulletin of all the subjects that can be referred to," said Raquel. "They might also send an order not to publish something."
The Zetas' demands regarding coverage were not only related to their criminal activities but also a range of social news, such as members' sporting achievements or the christening of their children.
The criminal group carefully monitored the press, she said, and if orders were not met, they would beat the responsible journalist with boards that had nails sticking out of them.
Raquel emphasized how government officials protected and were complicit with the Zetas.
"We couldn't uncover any scandal against local officials complicit in organized crime," she said. "The Zetas were very clear about which people they would attack and which they would defend."
InSight Crime Analysis
"Suma's" narrative about her experiences with organized crime's intimidation of the Mexican media adds a personal dimension to a problem that has led the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) to identify Mexico as one the most dangerous countries in Latin America for journalists.
The failure of the Mexican government to offer meaningful protection to journalists in response to this has led to a situation where fear of reprisals by organized crime has caused widespread media self-censorship in Mexico.
SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles
Despite years of warnings over intimidation and violence targeting journalists, there has been no letup. On February 11, the latest victim of this violence was discovered in the eastern state of Veracruz, considered one of Mexico's most dangerous states for journalists. Gregorio Jimenez had been abducted, murdered and dumped in a mass grave.