11/14/11 – With the escalation of violence against citizens in general and journalists in particular, the state of Tamaulipas has been going through a series of changes in regards to the way in which news about drug trafficking and drug cartels are distributed to the people. This has been the case in the past few years as violence has increased and journalists have self censored to protect themselves and their colleagues. With journalists self-censoring to avoid being targets of drug cartels, there has been a rise in the use of social media networks to distribute the information that a number of news sources now refuse to cover. However, from September 2011 to the present, there have been four cases of homicide in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas alone that have been linked to the distribution of information through alternative methods, suggesting that not only have traditional media outlets been silenced by drug cartels and gangs, but perhaps social media sites will now, too.
The most notorious case was the murder of Maria Elizabeth Macias, also known as “La Nena de Laredo,” who was a journalist and the moderator of “Nuevo Laredo en Vivo.” Her decapitated body was found in September next to a monument commemorating Christopher Columbus in a local park in Nuevo Laredo. The Zetas, who committed the murder, left a messages referencing her relationship to the “Nuevo Laredo en Vivo” website a site devoted to releasing information about drug trafficking events. According to Univision Noticias, “Nuevo Laredo en Vivo” is a website that has more tan 400,000 visits and that allows users to chat about narco-related events. It also controls a Twitter account where Twitter users can draw attention to members of drug cartels, gangs, security forces, and military members, whether for violent acts or abuse, through the hashtag ‘#NuevoLaredo.’
Also in September, two bodies were hung from a bridge in Nuevo Laredo with a similar message that kicked off this recent upswing in violence towards social media users, threatening that “This is going to happen to all of those related to the Internet.” This message was yet again signed by the Zetas.
More recently, another user of the “Nuevo Laredo en Vivo” site was killed on November 9. His identity is unknown, but the Zetas claim that he was “El Rascatripas,” and one of the moderators of the website. His body was found in the same place as the body of Macias. Next to his body, a message read, “This happened to me for not understanding that I should not report in social networks.”
These events have made it clear that the Zetas, and perhaps other drug trafficking organizations, are not only trying to make journalists and reporters self-censor themselves while using traditional media methods, but also when using other means of communication, such as websites and social networks. Said El País with regards to “El Rascatripas” murder, “A photograph of the incident indicates that the man was tortured for denouncing crimes on social websites, increasing the fears that the drug cartels are now more and more so attacking authors of blogs.”