A Facebook page known as "Valor x Tamaulipas" and its Twitter account, both of which tracked crime in the embattled state by the same name, have been taken down following threats against the administrators, raising concerns over the ability of citizen journalists to continue to fill the gap left by a cowed mainstream media.
For over a year, the Valor x Tamaulipas ("Bravery for Tamaulipas") Facebook and Twitter pages had published information and security alerts related to organized crime, after many of the local and national media organizations halted coverage. The coverage was spotty, sometimes unreliable, but often the only source of what was happening, as witnessed in a recent battle in the city of Reynosa.
The coverage led to trouble. In February, thousands of fliers were distributed in various Tamaulipas cities offering a reward of over $46,000 for information on the identity of the site administrator. Shortly thereafter, a Youtube video was uploaded that warned against publishing on such sites -- mentioning Valor x Tamaulipas by name.
Both the Facebook and Twitter pages were taken down suddenly at the start of April. A new page with the same name has sprung up since with a message from adminstrators saying they did not know what had happened to the adminisitrator of the original page, but that they wanted to continue the same work.
Still another page called Valor por Tamaulipas also exists, raising concerns and confusion about who is running these operations and to what end.
InSight Crime Analysis
The administrator, or administrators, of Valor x Tamaulipas understood the risks. In a correspondence with El Pais, the page administrator(s) said, "I am playing with fire."
However, the extent to which criminal groups have pursued the page is a worrying sign, showing that they consider this form of media an effective threat to their activities and are prepared to take serious measures to ensure that this threat is closed down. The page's enemies may have also included government officials, who were frequent targets of criticism for their lack of action in the face of criminal activity.
Valor x Tamaulipas is one of numerous social media sites and blogs that have sprung up in an attempt to continue publishing information on organized crime in regions where conventional media have been intimidated into silence.