Human Rights and Civil Society

Violence and censorship against journalists: Interview with Adela Navarro

Adela Navarro Bello, general director of Zeta. Image: Erin Siegel, The Toronto Star.
Adela Navarro Bello, general director of Zeta. Image: Erin Siegel, The Toronto Star.

As violence against journalists continues in Mexico, Justice in Mexico Contributor Leticia Corona sat down with Adela Navarro, the general director of the Tijuana based Zeta newsmagazine, to discuss the ongoing issue that undermines her profession and endangers the livelihood of her and her colleagues. Navarro discussed her work as a female journalist in Mexico; how Zeta’s reporting has pressured the government to design and implement efficient strategies to combat organized crime and violence in Mexico; and her frustrations with former President Felipe Calderón’s (2006-2012) militarized public security strategy that continues under current President Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018).

Navarro also spoke of the issue of press censorship in Mexico, caused by government and criminal organization pressures. She recognized the reality faced by her peers, and the “numerous media outlets that have published and said they are no longer going to cover or conduct investigations related to organized crime and drug trafficking.” Yet Zeta has defied censoring itself, even in the face of danger. Navarro explained,

“In Zeta’s case, what we did to help protect our reporters after the death of Zeta’s co-founder Jesus Blancornelas in 2006 is we started signing our stories like “Investigation of Zeta.” In reality, it is a team who is working on the stories about organized crime and drug trafficking, and not one single person. That way we do not expose our reporters. This has not prevented threats or attacks… but fortunately, nothing [too serious] has happened… At times we have had personal bodyguards from the Mexican military or the federal police. We just try to convey more responsible journalism every time, and each time more committed to protecting ourselves.”

Navarro began her work as a journalist with an interest in social justice, and a desire to serve the Mexican people. She has worked for 23 years at Zeta, and continues to be driven as a journalist to work for the greater good in bringing peace and justice to her country. She also acknowledges that Mexico’s challenges are a shared U.S.-Mexico responsibility, and therefore continues to work towards eliminating the impunity that plagues both countries. A prominent and well-recognized journalist, she has received the Committee to Protect Journalists’ International Press Freedom award (2007), and been named in Foreign Policy Magazine’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers” (2012) and Forbes Magazine’s “50 Most Powerful Women in Mexico” (2012, 2013), among others.

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