Soldiers Forgotten

Khashoggi’s death and its forgotten predecessors in Latin America

Published 11 months ago in Latin America and Security

security khashoggi columbia latin america

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Vendors and customers walk at a market in San Cristobal de las Casas, in Chiapas, Mexico, on December 31, 2013. A Mexican journalist was gunned down in Chiapas on September 21, 2018. (Source: Reuters/Claudia Daut)



For the last couple of years, we needed to be reminded of the dangers that journalists face, on a daily basis, to secure the information that we take as given. Facing threats from terrorist organizations, private individuals, and governments, these people risk their jobs, and sometimes their lives for the sake of the public and democracy. Khashoggi’s death sheds a light on an issue that has been going on for generations. He is not the first, and unless we change something, he will not be the last. Let him be the first one we remember, in an array of hard workers and heroes who have given their lives, or are being threatened, for this job.

At the same time, we tend to think that this is a problem which only happens in the Middle East. For some reason (for now let’s call it ignorance), our minds have connected “danger” and “lack of freedom” with some areas. Instead, we should think about this as a world-wide issue. Are we really going to ignore the hundreds of journalists that have died in our very own continent?

We owe them a lot. They deserve even more. We should be making sure they are safe and are able to do their jobs in full liberty. As always, solutions are not easy to reach, and I do not have a perfect answer to this problem in Latin America.

However, I having a medium in a free country that allows me to raise awareness.
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Silvia Duzan was murdered in 1990. After working on a documentary for the British television Channel 4 on peasant groups working for peace in Colombia, she was kidnapped and killed by paramilitaries in the area. Neither the Columbian police nor the government found justice for her death.

Today, her sister, Maria Jimena Duzan, is facing constant threats to her life Her own journalistic endeavors and coverage of the peacemaking process and efforts in Colombia have encouraged some to say that she should be “raped, spat upon, chopped up with a chainsaw and hung in the Plaza del Bolivar.”

Javier Ortega, Paul Rivas and Efrain Seguerra were found dead this year in Ecuador. As part of a story for their outlet, El Comercio, they were travelling to Mataje to cover violent events around the cocaine trade. At first, they went missing. Later in the year, the terrorist group that kidnapped them released a video requesting a hostage exchange: the three journalists for three of their own group. Three months after disappearing, authorities found their corpses across the border in unmarked graves that had been surrounded by landmines.

In 2017, Carlos Dominguez was stabbed at a traffic light in Mexico. He had been covering corruption cases and organized crime in his country before he was stabbed at 77 years of age in front of his family. To this day, there have been no arrests related to his case.

Since 2010, Mario Leonel Gomezhad filed several complaints to the authorities and had requested protection after receiving regular death threats and anonymous messages to his personal accounts. He was covering crime and violence in Yajalon, Mexico, for El Heraldo. On September 21, 2018 he was killed by two unidentified gunmen on a motorcycle. He was 40 years old when he became one of the 10 journalists killed in Mexico so far in 2018.

In Venezuela, intervention has taken the form of lawsuits and imprisonments. Jesus Medina Ezaine, a freelance photographer, was arrested while working on a project in a public hospital. Days after his arrest, the government formally charged him with "money laundering, criminal association, illegal enrichment against acts of public administration, and inciting hate." He had also been abducted, tortured and threatened after reporting to prison in northern Venezuela.

In 2010

<em>El Nacional</em> left a blank space where an image the government did not allow. (Source: Reuters/Jorge Silva)



Again in Venezuela, the government is opening investigations into the newspaper El Nacional, the biggest independent daily newspaper in the country. The National Telecommunications Regulator justifies the investigation by accusing the outlet of “inciting unrest with its coverage of the national elections.” These were the same elections that got Maduro reelected despite widespread abstention and the general outcry of the international community. The government also demanded the newspaper to stop publishing information that would “upset the peace of citizens by presenting erroneous or unfounded information.”

These are only a few of the many cases in which journalists have sacrificed their lives and peace to inform us. Reports show that 48 journalists were killed in 2017 alone, and those numbers are expected to increase for 2018. Let us not ignore these sacrifices. 

Let us remember these people, and let us remember that there are many more stories left to tell.


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