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Too Dangerous for Words: Life & Death Reporting the Mexican Drug Wars

Thursday, September 26, 2013     6:30 pm

4A conversation with Mexican investigative journalist Anabel Hernández
with Carlos Lauría and Nik Steinberg


In Mexico, officials put the number of deaths from drug violence at 70,000 in the last six years, with another 27,000 missing. For journalists, Mexico has become the most deadly country in the region, and one of the most dangerous worldwide. As cited in a recent report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) submitted to the UN Human Rights Council: “At least 50 journalists have been killed or disappeared in Mexico in the last six years,” with dozens more who have been “attacked, kidnapped, or forced into exile in connection to coverage of crime and corruption.” The extreme violence, coupled with a culture of widespread impunity, means that crimes against the Mexican press go largely uninvestigated. “The failure to successfully prosecute the killings of journalists has made Mexico the seventh-worst country in the world on CPJ’s Impunity Index.”


Anabel Hernández, one of the country’s leading investigative journalists, has written about high-level corruption among Mexico’s government, military, and business elites under the presidencies of Vicente Fox and Felipe Calderón. She received multiple death threats upon the 2010 publication in Mexico of Los señores del narco–her best-selling book about the 35-year genesis of drug production and trafficking in Mexico, the most violent leaders of the present-day cartels, and the Mexican government’s complicity with the crime rings that supply the United States with more than 60% of the drugs that enter the country. The result of a five-year investigation, the book has just been published in English as Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and Their Godfathers (Verso), with an introduction by Gomorrah author Roberto Saviano. Despite the increasing violence, threats, and intimidation leveled against journalists, and also their families (in May of this year, sons of two prominent journalists were slain), Hernández refuses to be silent or to leave Mexico. In 2012 she was awarded the Golden Pen of Freedom by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).


Joining Hernández in conversation will be Carlos Lauría of the Committee to Protect Journalists; investigative journalist Guy Lawson, who has written about war, crime, and politics around the globe and reported on Mexico and the drug cartels for Rolling Stone; and Nik Steinberg, senior researcher on Mexico in the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch.



About the Participants


Anabel Hernández is a Mexican journalist and writer known for her investigative reporting on corruption and the abuse of power in Mexican politics. It was the kidnap and murder of her father in 2000 in Mexico City and the subsequent refusal by the police to investigate unless her family paid a bribe that deepened her commitment to journalism. She has worked on national dailies including Reforma, Milenio, El Universal, and its investigative supplement La Revistaand has written about slave labor, sexual exploitation, political corruption, and drug cartels. Hernández was awarded the 2012 Golden Pen of Freedom by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). Her book Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and Their Godfathers (an English translation of Los senores del Narco) has just been published by Verso.


Carlos Lauría is Senior Americas Program Coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists, and serves as chief strategist and spokesperson on press freedom issues in the Americas. He monitors and documents press freedom violations in Latin America and has led missions to Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Haiti, Brazil, El Salvador, and Argentina. A journalism graduate of Universidad Católica Argentina, Lauría began his journalistic career in Buenos Aires in 1986 and settled in New York in 1994 as U.S. bureau chief correspondent for Editorial Perfil, Argentina’s largest magazine publisher. He serves on the board of the Maria Moors Cabot Award for excellence in Latin American journalism, sponsored by Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.


Guy Lawson is an investigative journalist and the author of the New York Times best-seller Octopus: Sam Israel, the Secret Market, and Wall Street’s Wildest Con (2012), and co-author of The Brotherhoods: The True Story of Two Cops Who Murdered for the Mafia (2007). He has traveled the globe writing about war, crime, politics, and sports for a variety of publications, including Harper’sGQ, and The London Observer, among others. In 2008 and 2009 he wrote about Mexico and the drug cartels for Rolling Stone (“The War Next Door,” “The Making of a Narco State,” and “How the Cartels Work”), where he is a contributing editor. A more recentRolling Stone article, “Arms and the Dudes,” was nominated for a National Magazine Award for best feature writing in 2012.  * Mr. Lawson was unable to attend.


Nik Steinberg is the senior researcher on Mexico in Human Rights Watch’s Americas Division. He is the author of the 2013 report Mexico’s Disappeared: The Enduring Cost of a Crisis Ignored, which documented widespread “disappearances” committed by security forces and organized crime in Mexico’s “war on drugs”; and the 2011 report Neither Rights Nor Security, which looked at killings and torture by soldiers and police in Mexican counternarcotics operations. Steinberg has testified on human rights abuses before Congress, as well as in Mexico. His writing has appeared in the New York Review of Books, the Washington Post, and the Nation, among other publications.  He is a graduate of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.



This event is co-sponsored by NYU’s  Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, Committee to Protect Journalists, and PEN American Center.


About Co-Sponsors


At NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute we believe that journalists have a public mission to do compelling work that informs, engages and matters to the societies in which we live. This mission informs our faculty, motivates our students and shapes our basic approach to education. Housed within the Arts and Science core of New York University, the institute treats journalism as an essential aspect of the liberal arts tradition, a critical part of the public culture, our civil society.


Committee to Protect Journalists promotes press freedom worldwide and defends the right of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal. CPJ ensures the free flow of news and commentary by taking action wherever journalists are attacked, imprisoned, killed, kidnapped, threatened, censored, or harassed.


Founded in 1922, PEN American Center is a fellowship of writers dedicated to defending freedom of expression and persecuted writers and journalists, advancing literature and literary translation, and fostering international literary exchange. It is the largest and most active of the 145 chapters in 101 countries that comprise International PEN (founded in 1921).



Thursday, September 26, 2013
6:30 pm-8:30 pm
Event Category:
New York Institute for the Humanities


Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University
20 Cooper Square, 7th Floor (Bowery at 5th St.), New York, NY 10003 United States
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