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Mapping Violence Against Journalists, Social Media Users and Bloggers in Mexico

BY Jessica McKenzie | Friday, May 3 2013

Screengrab from crowdsourced map

In a country where 87 journalists have been killed and 17 have disappeared since 2000, a new crowdsourced map offers a safe way to report and record attacks against journalists, bloggers, Facebook and Twitter users. A combined effort between Freedom House and the International Center for Journalists, as of May 3 the map already showed 48 reports — including physical, judicial, psychological and digital attacks.

Jorge Luis Sierra, an award-winning Mexican investigative reporter, is coordinating the project as part of the Knight International Journalism Fellowship. He says the map “Periodistas en Riesgo” (“Journalists at Risk”) is the first digital crowdsourcing platform related to freedom of expression in Latin America.

Protecting the anonymity of users is a priority. Before they submit a report, they suggest users download one of two platforms on their computers or mobiles that allow anonymous browsing. Or, if reporting by email, the project encourages using Hushmail, which encodes the content of electronic messages to protect security. The map is powered by Ushahidi, and based on their open source platform Crowdmap.

Sierra envisions the map being used for media organizations and groups dedicated to protecting journalists. The information from the map will inform decisions on where to allocate resources and concentrate their influence. It is also an outlet for citizens to report threats against them that might have gone unreported before now.

Violence against reporters is a worldwide problem, but particularly extreme in Mexico. On May 3, in honor of World Press Freedom Day, Reporters Without Borders released an updated list of 39 Predators of Freedom of Information, singling out Miguel Treviño Morales, Alias Z-40, and the Zetas Drug Cartel as a particular threat to Mexico’s freedom of press. They accuse him of being instrumental in making Mexico the continent’s most dangerous country for journalists, for being involved in kidnapping and murdering journalists and human rights activists, and for forcing local news operations to practice self-censorship, among other allegations.

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