Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas: Coverage of Drug Trafficking and Organized Crime in Latin America and the Caribbean

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A report by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, and the Open Society Foundations, on media coverage of organized crime in Latin America and the Caribbean. It is based on discussions between journalists and academics in the region at a forum held by the organization. The contributors identify new challenges facing the media, such as reporting on organized crime syndicates that work across international borders.

An excerpt from the prologue:

The 8th Austin Forum on Journalism in the Americas started hours after the assassination of a 21-year-old photojournalist of the Ciudad Juarez newspaper El Diario. (Another young journalist, an intern, barely survived the same attack.) The shocking news gave a gloomy tone to the conference, where almost 50 journalists and experts would discuss the coverage of drug trafficking and organized crime in many countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. It became a dramatic reminder of the seriousness and complexity of the forum’s topic.

Reporters and editors risk their lives, and many have been killed in the line of duty, as they tried their best to inform about the activities of criminal organizations. Mexico has become the most dangerous country for journalists, who found themselves as targets, in the middle of the crossfire of the so-called drug wars, especially on the border with the United States but also in many other regions. Drug trafficking and organized crime, however, is a widespread problem, affecting virtually all countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

As we found out during the Austin Forum discussions, it is not only extremely dangerous to cover this issue, but also very complex to explain its real dimensions and implications. Drug trafficking and organized crime are a global plague with ramifications that cannot be understood through the traditional, body-count-based local coverage. Its coverage poses some of the most difficult challenges journalists face in this hemisphere nowadays.

For the complete document click here (pdf) — also available in Spanish.

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