• Death threats and murders silence traditional reports
• Catalogue of horror posted by bloggers and on Twitter
A small army of bloggers and tweeters is filling the gaps left by traditional media in Mexico that are increasingly limiting their coverage of the country’s drug wars because of pressure from the cartels.
“Shots fired by the river, unknown number of dead,” read one recent tweet on a busy feed from the northern border city of Reynosa, #Reynosafollow. “Organized crime blockade on San Fernando road lifted,” said another. “Just saw police officers telling a group of narcos about the positions of navy checkpoints,” ran a third.
Nothing of this kind appeared in the city’s papers which, along with most media outlets in the north-eastern state of Tamaulipas, have become better known for what they do not publish than for what they do.
Tamaulipas is one of the most intense battlegrounds of the drug wars being fought in Mexico between the federal forces and at least seven cartels.
Gun fights lasting hours, grenade attacks in shopping streets, military swoops on suspected kingpins – all ignored. Six local journalists in one city disappeared in two days, and there was hardly a word from their terrified colleagues.
One editor on a regional paper – who does not want to be named for security reasons – has meticulously followed directives from the dominant local traffickers ever since a story she published about a shoot-out, based on an official report, earned her a death threat a couple of months ago.
She does not even dare complain too openly about this to colleagues, in case they are in the pay of the gang. But every now and then she cannot resist tweeting. “Sometimes the emotion of a story gets to me and I put it on Twitter,” she says. “Especially when I know it won’t get out otherwise.”
Earlier this month, she revealed the kidnapping of a former local mayor who is also a cousin of Mexico’s biggest media magnate.