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Anabel Hernández - biography

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Anabel Hernández - biography

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Anabel Hernández is a Mexican journalist who has worked for several important national media such as Milenio, El Universal, its investigative supplement La Revista (now emeequis) and online news site Reporte Indigo. She currently works as a contributor to the daily Reforma and investigative weekly Proceso and writes her own investigative books on corruption and the abuse of power in Mexican politics.

(© Anabel Hernández)


In a 2011 interview she gave to Quien Resulte Responsable TV, Anabel professed to being driven to focus on her investigative journalism after the kidnapping and murder of her father in December 2000, in Mexico City. Police investigators told the family that they were only willing to investigate the crime if the family paid them. The family refused to pay for the police’s services, believing that even if they had, the police could charge anyone in order to collect the money off the family.

In her early days starting out as a journalist at Reforma in 1993, Anabel worked local news stories and learned to collect information directly from sources on the street. By the time she working at Milenio, she knew enough to break ‘Toallagate’ in 2001. Toallagate saw Anabel uncover the vast public expenditures on the residence of president Vicente Fox, for which she was awarded the Mexican National Journalism Award in 2002. Anabel reported that the president's office had spent around 440,000 USD to redecorate two cabins in the presidential compound. Her report caused immediate controversy as Fox had promised during his election campaign to run a government of austerity. His popularity subsequently plummeted in the polls and his wife and at least four others lost their jobs in his administration.

Her work then progressed to uncovering slave labour networks and the sexual exploitation of Mexican girls on agricultural land in San Diego, California, for which she obtained an recognition by UNICEF in 2003. As she gained recognition for her work she began to be contacted by citizens with information on potential stories and moved to reporting on drug cartels, perhaps Mexico’s most dangerous job. Drug related violence has left thousands dead in the country over the past decade and reporters are routinely targeted both by state officials and criminal narco-gangs for reporting on the situation.

In her most recent book, Los Señores del Narco / The Drug Traffickers (2010, Grijalbo Mondadori Sa), Anabel details the complicities between organised crime and high-level authorities, from government officials to the police, the military and businessmen. She analyzes the evolution of drug production and trafficking in Mexico since the 1970s and reveals the alarming role played by Mexican government officials and agents from the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency. Using testimonies and official reports gathered during a five-year investigation, the book describes in painstaking detail the process by which Mexico has become the epicentre of the mega-cartels in Latin America and one of the most violent places on the planet. She has received death threats from both state and non-state actors in reprisal for the book’s publication.

Her professed aim as an investigative journalist is to work against the presumption of anonymity that governs the actions of corrupt state officials in Mexico. She believes that, “corruption grows through silence. If journalists of my generation keep silent, if we give up to our work for fear or complicity, journalists after us will be condemned to kneel to this corruption. I hope I will live… and see that that never happens”.



The Political Scene in Mexico


In December 2006, the Mexican government declared a “war on drugs”, publicly engaging in a full-scale military campaign against the powerful Mexican drug trafficking cartels. These organisations had until then controlled the different drug smuggling routes to the United States and had implicit agreements with the political elite, who turned a blind-eye in exchange for large pay-offs. In 2006, 90% of the drugs that entered the United States of America did so through Mexico, making the activity more lucrative than ever before. Once war had been declared, targeted government attacks shattered the power balance between the cartels and inadvertently provoked a race between the traffickers to safeguard and increase smuggling routes. The cartels have since engaged in open warfare for the control of the lucrative routes to the US market, and have extended their criminal activities into kidnapping, prostitution, extortion, the arms trade and human trafficking.

This spiralling situation has plunged Mexico into one of the darkest periods of its contemporary history, with a wave of violence that has cost the lives of more than 50,000 people in just five years.




The Effects on the Media


The 'War on Drugs' has had devastating effects on the Mexican media. According to WAN-IFRA research, 30 media professionals have been killed since the start of the government’s offensive in December 2006, with most of the perpetrators remaining at large. Violence and impunity remain Mexico’s major challenges in terms of press freedom, with four journalists killed in 2011 for doing their job, making Mexico one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists in that year. 

The government’s war against powerful organised-crime syndicates and their internal fight for the control of commercial routes to the large US drug market have created a total news blackout affecting several regions in the north of the country, as drug cartels, the de facto authority in many cases, rarely hesitate in physically silencing investigative reporters. On 25 March 2011, photographer Luis Emanuel Ruiz was killed in the city of Monterrey. The 21 year-old had only eight-months on the job working for daily La Prensa and had been covering a story on a former drug-addict who had become a popular TV personality. On 31 May, the body of Noel López Olguín, a columnist for Veracruz-based daily La Verdad de Jáltipan kidnapped on 8 March, was found in the city of Chinameca. Mr López Olguin had been the author of a column in which he vigorously reported on drug-trafficking and government corruption. On 20 June, armed gunmen shot and killed Miguel Ángel López and his family at their home. A columnist at Veracruz-based Notiver daily, shortly before his death Mr López had written about drug trafficking in the region. 24 September, the decapitated body of María Macías, an editor at Primera Hora newspaper, was found in the city of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state. A message left next to the body accused Ms Macías of denouncing drug violence on local social networks and websites.


Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop


2012-03-02 19:38

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The Golden Pen of Freedom is WAN-IFRA's annual award recognising individuals or organisations that have made an outstanding contribution to the defence and promotion of press freedom. Read more ...