* Due to technical difficulties, the publication of this article was delayed from its original postdate of April 11, 2013.
04/11/13 – (by gomeznathalie) The writer behind the popular uncensored Blog del Narco in Mexico has recently surfaced for the first time, speaking on the challenges and threats she has faced since beginning the blog more than three years ago. She spoke under the condition of anonymity in a joint interview with The Guardian and The Texas Observer, as well as in a follow-up interview with Al Jazeera English, which aired its interview on its popular television segment known as ‘The Stream.’ (To listen to Blog del Narco’s interview with Al Jazeera’s ‘The Stream,’ click here). Although the true identity of the blogger remains concealed, when asked who she is, she replied, “I’m in my mid-20s, I live in northern Mexico, I’m a journalist. I’m a woman, I’m single, I have no children. And I love Mexico.”
Blog del Narco, which began under the Calderón administration (2006-2012) on March 2, 2010, serves to provide uncensored and at times graphic information to the public, exposing drug cartel violence that is often not covered by mainstream media nor included in government reports. The blog invites readers to send in any information that would be of interest to the public from their respective regions to collectively build transparency in Mexico, inform its followers of the security situation in Mexico, and to protect journalists who cannot report so openly on such topics out of fear of retaliation from organized crime groups. NYTelemundo reports that the blog’s Twitter base has a following of 130,000 users and enjoys website traffic of approximately three million visitors per week.
The anonymous writer behind Blog del Narco talked during the interview about the challenges and risks she has undergone in the pursuit of transparency. “We had a person working inside of the federal government in intelligence that would notify us when the narcos were close to us,” she said. “The warnings were at any time of the day, at any hour, and they would tell me, ‘Move from where you are because they have found the zone.’ They would tell me, ‘Take what you can and leave.’” The blogger admits that she lives her life in fear, unable to go out and live her normal life. Despite this reality, she told Al Jazeera that if her blog did not exist, she believes there would be no one to vouch for the tens of thousands of lives lost during the ‘war on drugs’ in Mexico. As well, by providing access to stories not covered in mainstream media, she warns visitors outside of the violent regions of the dangers that exist there, namely the presence of cartels. When asked about the current security situation under President Enrique Pena Nieto, she divulged that she could not yet form an opinion given that his six-year term in office (sexenio) just began in December. She did, however, comment on the state of fear under which she lived during the Calderón administration, acknowledging that “during those six years, freedom of expression for journalists was stifled.” She added, “Journalism is not just dead in Reynosa, it is dead in Mexico, true journalism is dead. I began to do work that no one was doing and I doubt anyone would have had the courage to do it.”
According to The Guardian and The Texas Observer, the Blog del Narco writer published a book on April 16, 2013, called, “Dying for the Truth: Undercover Inside Mexico’s Violent Drug War,” in which she reveals the struggles she has faced since launching the blog, and the fear in general that has gripped Mexico in recent years. The book also records the homicides the blog documented for the full year after the website was initially launched in 2010, as well as serves as a living testament for the public to recognize what the people in northern Mexico and throughout the country have faced amidst the security crisis. Despite all this, the blogger shared the fact that she loves her culture and that the ‘narcos’ and violence are not representative of who Mexicans truly are. “We’re not all bad. We’re not all narcos. We’re not all corrupt. We’re not all murderers. We are well educated, even if many (foreign) people think otherwise,” she said. (To read more about the interview reported on by The Guardian and The Texas Observer, regarding the woman behind the blog, click here.)
Although the type of journalism done by Blog del Narco has been critiqued by corporate and independent journalists, it cannot be denied that social media has served as an interesting and innovative platform to voice repression. Valor por Tamaulipas, a Facebook group with a following of over 150,000 users, also reports on the daily violence and instability in Mexico in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas. (To read more about Valor Por Tamaulipas, click here). Such methods of undercover and alternative news reporting through social media are not surprising given the self-censorship of mainstream journalists who have been the targets of criminal organizations the past few years. Earlier this year, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that Mexico had the fourth highest number of journalists killed in 2012, only behind Syria, Somalia, and Pakistan.