A journalist contacted me the day after Miroslava was murdered. They wanted a comment to support their story about how organized crime had killed three journalists in Mexico this month. The evidence for that claim? Because the journalists’ stories had annoyed the narcos, because of the weapons used in the crimes, and because in cases like Miroslava’s, there was a signed message from a narco left at the scene. I told the reporter that their take was simplistic and that conclusions like those only produced impunity, and were the same ones the government always used to justify closing investigations into the cases of murdered journalists. I told them that things were too murky to make such a claim. At the moment, political scores are being settled in Chihuahua, and in Guerrero, Veracruz, and Chihuahua—where the three murders occurred—there is ample evidence of narcopolitics, and Miroslava’s reports denounced precisely that. When things are in turmoil, everyone takes advantage. A message claiming responsibility for the crime shouldn’t be considered proof, when it is just as likely to be a distraction. The hypothesis of narcos as the sole perpetrator of the murder simply doesn’t fly in this case: Miroslava’s murder reeks of narcopolitics. As the official narrative of the crime emerges, we confront the risk of supporting the perpetual narrative, the one that encourages impunity, the classic tales that the journalist was killed by the narco, or that they were at a party with their killers, or that they were killed by their boyfriend after spending the night together, or that they were on drugs, or that it was a fight between neighbors. It is not a moment for such carelessness. It is a moment to avoid simplistic answers, to contextualize, to document what is learned. Titles such as this do not help: “El 80 Killed Miroslava Breach for Discovering that his In-Law would be a PRI Candidate: La Jornada” (Semanario Zeta). “El 80,” like all narcos, has always been protected by politicians. Illegal activity is impossible without that protection. Instead of reporting on the smoke, we should be trying to discover who is burning the forest.
Marcela Turati is a journalist and founder of Periodistas de a pie. She is also a 2016-2017 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University.
Translation by Michael Lettieri, Trans-Border Institute.