By: Raúl Zibechi
They are not, they cannot be, the collateral and undesired effects of the war on drugs. Critical journalists are one of the objectives; not the only one, because the principal target continues to be those below that organize (the organized of below). Assassination is the way that those above, that complex narco-impresario-state alliance, have for disorganizing movements and neutralizing critical journalists and the media (the few) that publish them. I resist seeing it another way, because of the very history of the media.
Until some decades ago, until the 70s or 80s (somewhat arbitrary dates), the section chiefs were the ones who put order into the newsrooms: politics, society, culture, and so forth. The editorial board was a sort of central committee in the daily newspapers and weekly magazines, which were the most distributed media, followed and appreciated by those who wished to inform themselves with a minimum of quality as to analysis and style.
Each section chief was accustomed to meeting with the group of journalists that it was his responsibility to direct, proposing themes to them and listening to any observation, less because power functioned from top to bottom. An old Tupamaro journalist, who worked after the Uruguay dictatorship as editor of the bi-weekly Mate Amargo, used to say –half in jest half seriously– that the “good journalist” was limited to asking “how many lines” he should write (no characters were mentioned then) and, above all, whether the note should be “in favor or against.”
Over the years, with the crisis of hierarchies and, above all, of patriarchies, relationships in the media (at least in the press with which I am familiar), suffered a strong chastising. Fittingly, the editorial board of Brecha is now made up only of women; the director and the four section chiefs are women. And, they are young.
More than change, a true tsunami that would have left the journalists that formed us perplexed. Many of them, like Carlos María Gutiérrez (author of the first interview with Fidel in the Sierra Maestra and founder of Prensa Latina together with Rodolfo Walsh) and Gregorio Selser, who also collaborated in La Jornada, came from and wrote for the mythic Marcha.
Today the newsrooms are very different. The journalists usually take the initiative, propose the themes and define the ways to approach them. They investigate without waiting for their bosses’ approval. They conduct themselves with greater autonomy all the time and, although they can be a minority, they know what they want and the way to get it. Although I did not know her personally, Miroslava Breach must have belonged to that breed and watered at the same well.
What I want to say is this: journalists are murdered instead of attacking the media, as was done before; and there are the dozens of newspapers the dictatorships closed, or the attack against El Espectador in Bogotá by Pablo Escobar’s group in 1989, with more than 70 injured. Critical journalists –reporters, photographers, and etcetera– are themselves an objective, as are the leaders of anti-systemic movements.
In the 20 years that the Vietnam War lasted (1955-1975), 79 journalists died (https://knightcenter.utexas.edu/en/blog/reporters-who-covered-vietnam-war-reunite-former-saigon), it having been the armed conflict with the most press coverage in history and one of the most lethal, with the number of deaths that, according to sources, exceeded 4 million. The number contrasts vividly with the more than 120 journalists murdered in Mexico since 2000, in a completely different situation to that of Southeast Asia.
The increase in crimes against journalists forms part of the complete open control that the system realizes, for which it uses the armed apparatus of the State, as well as the narco. The mode of operating has changed radically in the last half century.
Starting with Vietnam, where journalism played a relevant role of informing the population at that time, the doors began to close. Images like that of the naked girl fleeing from napalm bombing, or the film of an official executing an unarmed guerrilla with a shot to the head, contributed decisively to turning public opinion, particularly American public opinion, against the war.
In many senses the Vietnam failure was a parting of waters. That is when the “social policies” were born from the hand of Robert McNamara, who had served as Secretary of Defense during Vietnam and later as president of the World Bank, and who comprehended that wars were not won with weapons. Those policies, so devastating to the autonomy and self-esteem of those below are, as of today, the children of the Yankee military defeat.
Two additional events happened during those same that are worth remembering. One, capitalism counter-attacks the workers’ movement with a complete labor restructuring, in which automation is born in the central countries and the maquila (sweat shop) on the peripheries.
Second, the war against drugs made its first moves against the Black Panther Party in the United States at the end of the 1970s, murdering leaders and developing the so-called “Counterintelligence Program” (COINTELPRO) in order to annihilate an organization that had achieved deep community ties. The FBI flooded black neighborhoods with drugs, as part of the fight against the “insurgency.”
By the way, it’s necessary to remember that United States intelligence services allegedly staged California journalist Gary Webb’s “suicide” in 2004 because of his investigations that placed in evidence the CIA’s connections to the massive selling of crack in black neighborhoods to finance the Pentagon’s illegal wars.
It’s evident that the narco-state-bourgeoisie alliance enjoys good health, being one of the most solid pillars of the regimes called “democracies.” Despite the horror, we must not lose the north: the murders are part of a war against the peoples. They don’t kill them for being journalists, but rather for their commitment to those below.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Friday, March 31, 2017
Re-published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee