Mexico City: National Media To Tighten Control Of Gruesom Drug War Pictures

26 Mar

NEWS UPDATE ADDITION:

Police detective look for fingerprints on television entertainer Jose Luis Cerda's car near to his network's office in Monterrey
Reuters – Police detectives look for fingerprints on television entertainer Jose Luis Cerda’s car near to his …

Mexico Drug War Slideshow:Mexico Drug War

By MARK STEVENSON, Associated Press Mark Stevenson, Associated Press :

MEXICO CITY – About 230,000 people have been displaced in Mexico because of drug violence, and about half of them may have taken refuge in the United States, according to a new study.

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre based this week’s report on studies by local researchers, saying that the Mexican government does not compile figures on people who have had to leave their homes because of turf battles between drug gangs.

“Independent surveys put their number at around 230,000,” according to the global report’s section on Mexico. “An estimated half of those displaced crossed the border into the United States, which would leave about 115,000 people internally displaced, most likely in the States of Chihuahua, Durango, Coahuila and Veracruz.”

While that number is far below the estimated 3.6 to 5.2 million displaced by decades of drug- and guerrilla-war violence in Colombia, the report suggested that people who had to flee drug violence in Mexico have received little support.

“In Mexico, state and federal authorities did not acknowledge or start to respond to the internal displacement caused by drug cartels,” the Geneva-based organization said.

Mexico’s Interior Department said it had no immediate comment on the report.

However, government census figures released this month support the idea of an exodus, at least in some areas.

The census, carried out in mid-2010, listed as uninhabited 61 percent of the 3,616 homes in Praxedis G. Guerrero, a border township in the Rio Grande Valley east of Ciudad Juarez. The area has suffered turf battles between the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels, and people in the town said gunmen have them to leave.

A striking 111,103 of the 488,785 homes in violence-wracked Ciudad Juarez were abandoned, or about 23 percent, and almost one-third of the 160,171 houses in Reynosa were unoccupied. The figure for Mexico as a whole was 14 percent, and many of those, especially in southern states, may belong to migrants who went to the United States seeking work.

Part of the exodus, the IDMC report noted, was because of the indiscriminate nature of the drug violence, which has killed more than 35,000 people since President Felipe Calderon ramped up an offensive against drug cartels in late 2006.

Police in the northern city of Monterrey reported Friday that a local television host on a children’s variety program was kidnapped and killed by gunmen and his body left on a roadside.

A cousin of host Jose Luis Cerda and a cameraman on his show also were also kidnapped late Thursday and were killed.

Cerda used the stage moniker “The Cat” on the children’s program known as “The Club.” Police officials said the motives were still under investigation.

Cerda’s blindfolded, bound body was found in a vacant lot, then stolen by gunmen as police were cordoning off the area. A spokesman for the state government who was not authorized to give his name said Cerda’s body turned up for a second time later Friday beside a main road in the city center and was secured by authorities.

Nuevo Leon public security office says five Guadalupe police officers have been detained and will be investigated for failing to provide adequate security after the initial finding of La Gata’s body.

In the Pacific coast resort of Acapulco, five dismembered bodies, four of them police officers who were abducted hours earlier, were found just a few blocks from where President Felipe Calderon and Guerrero State Governor Zeferino Torreblanca inaugurated the city’s annual Tourism Fair for international tour operators and industry officials.

Calderon has declared 2011 the Year of Tourism as Acapulco is facing record levels of violence from warring cartels, including an attack on a bar that killed 10 last weekend and 27 people killed in one day in January.

Hundreds of soldiers and police stood guard outside the convention center on the main tourism thoroughfare.

The bodies Friday were found inside an abandoned SUV with banners whose contents weren’t revealed. Drug gangs often leave messages with their victims.

_____

Associated Press Writers Sergio Flores in Acapulco, Mexico, and Mark Walsh in Monterrey, Mexico, contributed to this report.

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Mexico’s main television networks and other news groups vowed on Thursday to put tighter controls on the publication of gruesome images from a drugs war that has hurt President Felipe Calderon’s government.

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Major daily newspapers and top television broadcasters, Televisa and TV Azteca, said they would seek to make sure drug cartel leaders “are not seen as victims or public heroes” and are unable to use the media as a propaganda tool.

“The ability of organized crime to corrupt and intimidate has become a threat to the institutions and practices that sustain our democracy,” the news organizations said in an accord on how they will report the violence.

Gory images of beheaded bodies tossed on highways or strung up from bridges are beamed nightly into living rooms across the country and splashed on the front pages of newspapers.

The 10-point pact includes a clause to ensure coverage is more measured and put in the context of violence elsewhere, in what appeared to be a victory for the government, which has said reporting on Mexico’s drugs war is often overblown.

Calderon applauded the media guidelines.

“Media participation is crucial in building state security policy, underscoring the importance of this agreement,” the president’s office said in a statement. “We encourage other parts of society to promote initiatives like this one to confront those who want to destroy the peace and security of all Mexicans.”

More than 36,000 people have been killed since Calderon launched his army-backed campaign against the gangs in late 2006. Cartels often leave threatening messages on the bodies of their rivals and in public places.

Calderon has criticized Mexico’s media for publishing the threats, and occasionally showing grainy videos of hitmen interrogating tied-up enemies before executing them.

His government says it is making gains against the cartels and defends Mexico’s reputation by citing higher per capita murder rates in other Latin American countries.

Opinion polls show public confidence in security has been shaken, and Calderon’s conservative ruling party is lagging the main opposition party ahead of next year’s presidential vote.

Moreover, the rising death toll has scared off some tourists and businesses and remains a lingering concern for rating agencies monitoring investment in Mexico.

MURDERED JOURNALISTS

The agreement between dozens of news organizations on Thursday also aims to improve protection for journalists covering the war between cartels and security forces.

Twenty-two journalists have been murdered during Calderon’s term, at least eight in direct reprisal attacks for reporting on crime and corruption, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, or CPJ, which welcomed the media accord.

“I think this is positive in a sense that they are getting together and forming a united front,” said Carlos Lauria, the head of the Americas program at the CPJ.

“There is nothing worse than the current situation where the media is being cowed into silence in many parts — in places where the government has lost control,” he added.

Seven other journalists have gone missing in the last four years with dozens more threatened, kidnapped, or forced into exile, and many local newspapers, TV and radio stations have been bullied by drug gangs into stopping news coverage of the violence.

A cameraman for the Milenio television network was kidnapped last year in northern Mexico, and in an unprecedented move, his captors conditioned his release on the station broadcasting a drug cartel video message.

The agreement on Thursday comes amid a feud between the two top broadcasters and Mexican telecommunications magnate Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man.

Televisa and TV Azteca both accuse Slim of blocking their efforts to offer telephone services with the power he wields in the Mexican mobile network, and have pressed the government to weaken his hold.

(Additional reporting by Krista Hughes and Mica Rosenberg, editing by Kieran Murray)

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