World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

Rocio Gallegos : What do you want from us?

Rocio Gallegos : What do you want from us?

As a journalist for the Ciudad Juárez-based El Diario newspaper in the North of Mexico, Rocío Gallegos has been a direct witness to the increase of violence against journalists in the region. In the past three years, two journalists for El Diario have been killed by drug-cartels and since 2000 more than 64 journalists have been killed throughout the country. The armed conflict between organised crime and government forces in the region is having serious consequences on journalism. “In Mexico, we’re living a war”, explained Gallegos to WAN-IFRA. The newspaper drew worldwide attention with a 2010 editorial that directly addressed the traffickers, asking them "What do you want from us?”

 What is it like to be a journalist in Ciudad Juárez today?

For the past three years, Ciudad Juárez has been living in a spiral of violence and death. This has significantly changed the nature of our profession. Our journalism has turned into high-risk journalism. Security measures have increased in our newspaper’s premises, we avoid mobile phone or telephone conversations for fear of being under surveillance, we avoid sending our reporters to cover scenes alone or at night.

“What do you want from us?” was the title of the front-page 18 September 2010 editorial of El Diario. What pushed your newspaper to directly address organised crime?

Two days earlier, one of these groups killed one of our colleagues, raising to two the number of our journalists killed since 2008. It was a very hard time for us, a time of hopelessness. War reporters follow certain rules. Every war has its rules. But not this war, there are no rules of any sort, rules are ignored and this has cost us the lives of two reporters. By addressing the “narco”, we were addressing the de facto authorities at that time and asking them to inform us on what the rules were, because El Diario was not ready to keep losing reporters.

Some critics of your newspaper saw this as surrender. What is your answer to that view?
It created a lot controversy; some thought we would recoil into silence, others criticized us for encouraging dialogue with criminals. But the editorial said: “It is impossible for us to exercise our profession in these conditions, therefore, tell us what do you want from us, the media”. It was not a surrender, but a truce. We wanted to stop losing journalists and wanted to keep doing our jobs. Simultaneously, it was the sounding of an alarm to everyone, to society, to our profession, to the ‘narcos’, to the authorities. It was impossible to keep turning a blind eye to what was actually happening.

What motivates you to keep doing your job despite the climate of prevailing violence and impunity?

I decided that I was always going be a journalist.  The moment I realized that I could not only inform society, but give a voice to the common citizen, and by doing so, help him improve his every day life, help him make better decisions. There have been periods of rage and anger, when I ask myself: What am I doing here? But they’re only momentary. Many people believe our job is suicidal. The problem is that neither my colleagues nor me are willing to do something else! As long as citizens have us as a way to channel their voice and transcend their demands, as long as they have a voice and want it heard, us journalists will be there, doing our job. Maybe the day will come when citizens stop using those channels of expression. We will then stop. So therefore, when will I stop? Never…

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