In the United States, we often take our freedoms and liberties for granted. However, just miles from the Texas border, it’s a world filled with chaos and corruption. Mexico is one of the deadliest countries for journalists to travel to in recent years. The state of Tamaulipas and the city of Reynosa have become hotspots for drug cartels and violence. In fact, the threats have gotten so bad that it has journalists and police fleeing from the town.
Accurate information has been hard to come by, so that’s when citizen journalists stepped up to the plate to report on the dangerous situation. Many residents came together to share their stories and report what they were seeing by using the hashtag #ReynosaFollow.
It started out as a way for citizen journalists to warn others about the cartel activity and gun battles. Users remained anonymous and they went through great strides to protect their identities online. It was simply used as a way to inform people, but it soon got out of hand and that’s when things took a turn for the worst. Some users became very vocal and started to denounce certain people who they thought were involved with the cartels.
Once word gets out about who they are, this could lead to kidnapping, or even worse it could cost them their life. And in a country where 98% of murders remain unsolved, there is not much hope to hold onto.
According to an article in the Texas Observer, one citizen journalist paid the ultimate price and was reportedly kidnapped and killed. A string of tweets were posted from her account just hours before her death. Authorities are still investigating this case, but it leaves many residents shocked and scared. Many who were head leaders of the #ReynosaFollow group have now ditched their cell phones and computers and have refrained from posting anything online. This has put a chilling effect on the community that has left them silenced.
Situations like this have been plaguing Mexico in recent years. According to CPJ research, violence tied to drug trafficking has made Mexico one of the most dangerous countries in the world for reporters. The country was ranked seventh on CPJ’s 2014 Impunity Index, which highlights countries where journalists are slain and the killers go free. With statistics like this, it seems as though the voices of citizen journalists will never be fully heard.