Publish the Story–Drug Lords will Kill You

In the Mexican border town of Nuevo Laredo, the local paper has a dilemma: if they publish the story about the drug cartel’s murders, they will be killed. So they buried the story deep into the paper, hoping to get away with a lower profile and perhaps be spared the wrath of the Mexican drug mob. The San Antonio daily had this report.

“NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico — It was the deadliest shootout in recent memory, but the killing of two state police officers barely cracked the front pages of the newspapers in this violence-stricken city.

Five slayings — all believed related to drug trafficking — were recorded here Tuesday. While the news of the two dead cops circulated among the national Mexican news media and some U.S. outlets, the high-level killings were conspicuously hidden among the inside pages of local newspapers.

Resisting threats from suspected drug cartel members to not publish anything about Tuesday’s shootout, newspapers in Nuevo Laredo printed brief, anonymous stories.

But for editors, publishing the story felt less like an act of defiance and more like a retreat from the journalistic standards they want to give their readers.

The reality is that we’re in a situation where there is no freedom to publish,” one newspaper editor said on the condition of anonymity, fearing for his reporters’ safety.

“When all of the papers are (burying) it in the same way, something is going on,” the editor said, referring to the inside-page treatment that the story received.

The newspapers El Mañana, El Diario and Ultima Hora all printed reports of fewer than 200 words.