On the Eve of the Crisis in Mexican Democracy
On the Eve of the Crisis in Mexican Democracy, Your Journalists Need Mobility and Equipment to Report What Comes Next
Your Access to the Authentic News, and Their Safety Bringing It to You, Is at Stake
By Al Giordano
Publisher, Narco News
August 24, 2006
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As the clock ticks toward D-day, the decision day by Mexico's Supreme Electoral Tribunal that must, by September 6, determine an official result of that country's fraudulent July presidential election, water cannons and barricades have been installed around the federal Congress in Mexico City, repression is on the rise in Oaxaca and other conflict zones, and as those below struggle for their voices to be heard through the media, those above have ratcheted up the threats, intimidation and violence against the few and proud media that struggle to tell the truth.
More than a few observers have compared the tension and consequences in Mexico today to those of the 1973 US-backed coup d'etat in Chile. I am haunted by the image and memory of one of the journalists disappeared there - along with thousands of social fighters - during that dark September: the New Yorker Charles Horman, a saga from which came an award winning motion picture titled Missing.
Now I'm thinking about so many valiant and talented Narco News journalists who, today, are reporting for you from different regions of Mexico where gargantuan battles for freedom, justice and authentic democracy are raging. And of the responsibility they feel to bring you the stories that the Commercial Media has consistently distorted and will surely get wrong again and again. And of our responsibility, all of us, to do all we can to minimize their risks and maximize their ability to report the whole truth.
The forces of authoritarianism and censorship are rattling sabers:
- The Mexican State has just reminded that arrest warrants against Zapatista Subcomandante Marcos and other rebels are active and that legal interpretations that an amnesty law protects them from detention are disposable on the whims of the state.
- In Oaxaca, where the disgraced regime of Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz has arrested, shot at, kidnapped and assassinated social fighters and journalists in the past three months, his state attorney general just labeled the peaceful Popular Assembly as a "terrorist organization."
- In North America's largest metropolis and engine of culture, Mexico City, major showdowns are coming to a head: The September 1 "State of the Union Address" by President Vicente Fox in the halls of Congress where police have taken in recent days to violently attacking elected senators and representatives. And on September 15 and 16, the national independence days, Fox, the Armed Forces and the popular resistance against electoral fraud have all laid claim to the country's "town square," the Mexico City Zocalo.
- There are already more than 400 political prisoners in this "democracy," including 30 arrested May 3 and 4 in Texcoco and Atenco. In a land where narco-traffickers and corrupt politicians walk out of prison on a whim, the cells are reserved for those who dare speak out against the abuses of power.
We have to keep reporting all this and more to you and to the world: in Spanish, English, Italian, French, German and Portuguese. Specifically in Mexico, more than 45 authentic journalists have been donating our labor non-stop since the first of the year to chronicle - honestly and with strict adherence to the facts - the tide of history underway.
It is highly likely - although not at all certain - that this week or next the seven justices of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal will endorse a mammoth electoral fraud, cementing a 21st Century coup d'etat in this nation of 100 million people. If it opts for the corrupt path, the public isn't going to swallow it, and the forces of repression will be unleashed to try to contain peaceful and civilian resistance. Journalists, too, will be in the crossfire, especially those who tell the truth.
You Are Our Only Security
For six years, Narco News has reported from all América. Our journalists have been arrested, sued, kidnapped, physically attacked, and threatened with deportation from various countries, including Mexico. And each time, we fought to defend them and won. We did that because you, the readers, gave us the tools to do this work, to do it well, and to mount the defenses.
Not one of these journalists has become wealthy. Not one has even been able to purchase an automobile, much less a home, because of it. But today not one is in prison, either, or assassinated; at least not yet.
In my experience, the most important protection a journalist can have during a time of moral crisis and violent conflict is mobility: the ability to move rapidly with the news. A moving target is harder to hit. It means taking buses, taxis, sometimes renting a car, and having effective internal communications systems between us.
It also means that the cameraperson must have a working camera, and the writer must have a working laptop. There are at least two of our key journalists who have lost theirs in the rough-and-tumble of this work and I feel it is urgent to re-arm them with these peaceful "weapons" of communication.
It also means having a roof over one's head in a strange town where the news has suddenly exploded, and something to eat, and sometimes gasoline or an Internet connection.
For three months this Spring, when the Zapatista Other Campaign was in the central part of Mexico, you helped rent a safe house and Internet access for sixteen authentic journalists, at the cost of less than $500 dollars per month. Today, the "Narco Newsroom" publishes from more humble quarters: a $120-a-month apartment, with another fifty bucks for high speed Internet access. But if the mierda hits the fan, as seems entirely plausible in the coming days, we have no means to move quickly.
One of our courageous correspondents in Mexico City, this week, asked me for fifty dollars to be able to travel to do an important story. I checked my bank account. It has $45. That's insane. We all know how to live on vapors but with the crisis evolving, we need to be mobile, or not only are we sitting ducks for any repressive plan from above, but, worse, we can't get to the news in the different places where it is possibly going to explode in the coming days and weeks.
I can tell you that every member of this news team knows exactly how to minimize danger and maximize our ability to get the story to you. I have never known a finer bunch of communicators and colleagues. We have spent many hours talking about what could happen next and how to do our work without falling into traps. They're ready for the crisis to come. We're ready.
But what is missing is fifty dollars there, a camera here, a laptop over there, a bus ticket to a safe location, a ten-dollar hotel room somewhere in América, that, at a certain moment, could mean the difference between freedom and imprisonment, which means the difference between your getting to read the real story or not. And, if you've been following Narco News this summer, then you know we are also searching for a new webmaster, so that Dan Feder can get out into the field and do this important reporting, and so some extra financial responsibilities to be able to do that are leaning heavily on us as well.
And there are just $45 dollars in the bank, with the sabers rattling outside our doors.
None of us doing this work want to be the subject of some future movie about some journalist who is suddenly, in an hour of crisis and repression, disappeared or missing. We only want to keep doing this work, to keep informing you and so many others (Narco News today has more readers than ever before, and since January the increase in traffic to this little website has increased surprisingly each month, so we do know you are out there, and that there are hundreds of thousands of you each day.)
I wanted to wait until September to ask for your help, but the crisis clock is ticking before then. We just report the news. We don't get to decide when it explodes. But can you hear that ticking sound? Do you think, based on what we've reported, that Mexico is going to stand for another electoral fraud and coup d'etat? Do you think that those who want to remain in power and who have already arrested and killed to keep it will not attempt to exploit our every weakness as we try to bring you the story?
The reality is that to do the job ahead, the work that becomes, tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that, but definitely within two weeks, more important than before, we need your help, in the form of a contribution - more generous than before - to the Fund for Authentic Journalism.
Please click the following link and make your contribution right now at:
Or send it via the mail to:
The Fund for Authentic Journalism
P.O. Box 241
Natick, MA 01760 (U.S.A.)
Maybe you'll respond. Maybe we won't be "sitting ducks" but instead will be mobile journalists during the hour of crisis.
Or maybe not: It's in your hands, and in these hours.
Whichever way it goes, I want to say that we're grateful that you read our reports (and watch our video newsreels, and listen to our audio). And I'm so very proud of the colleagues who, at considerable personal risk, continue bringing you the authentic news, and who translate it, and who do all the other tasks that make this history possible.
We regret nothing. Share that feeling with us. Make it possible that the immediate future brings no regrets, and, to the contrary, unprecedented victories. It's show time, again, somewhere in a country called América.
- Al Giordano