Two journalists in the Pacific Coast state of Michoacan received money from the leader of the Knights Templar drug cartel for presumably giving advice about what communications strategy the group should employ, demonstrating the sometimes nefarious connection between journalists and the criminal subjects they cover.
In a video (below) released by Aristegui Noticias, Televisa’s then-Michoacan correspondent Eliseo Caballero and Jose Luis Diaz Perez, the owner of the news agency Esquema, are shown taking money from Servando Gomez, alias “La Tuta,” at the end of a meeting in which the three discuss ways to keep the head of the Knights Templar cartel in the media spotlight.
“No one wants to come to our side,” Tuta tells the journalists at one point, referring to his inability to tell his side of the story.
“No, no,” Caballero responds. “It’s like I told you the last time. If you put up a banner, the banner for us is a source of information.”
The journalists later received “bill after bill,” Arestegui Noticias said.
In an interview following the release of the video, Perez claimed that the money from La Tuta was related to his work as a journalist. On September 22, Televisa announced that it ended Caballero’s contract with the news company.
InSight Crime Analysis
The video presents the unsettling reality that some journalists have been corrupted into working with criminal groups such as the Knights Templar. The quid pro quo in this case seems to have come in the form of advice about a media strategy, but it can also come from favorable coverage, ignoring certain events or writing about rival groups.
This dilemma is magnified given the high level of insecurity facing reporters that cover organized crime in the region. Numerous news outlets in Mexico — considered one of the most dangerous places to be a journalist — have stopped reporting on organized crime because they cannot guarantee the safety of their reporters.
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This reality makes the job of those sorting through the threats and deaths of journalists that much harder. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says 30 reporters have been killed since 1992, 80 percent of which covered crime.
The video also illustrates how control of just one news agency can influence reporting of many others. In its report, Aristegui Noticias says Diaz specialized in security; his work was widely used and cited in numerous publications and radio stations across the state.