Bartman, Jos Midas. “Murder in Mexico: Are Journalists Victims of General Violence or Targeted Political Violence?” Democratization 25, no. 7 (Mar. 2018): 1093-1113.

A protest in Mexico City after the murder of photojournalist Ruben Espinosa on August 31 of 2015. Journalists gathered at the Angel of Independence square to demand justice for the assassination of Ruben Espinosa. (Google Images)

Image Context: Ruben Espinosa had sought refuge in the capital after receiving numerous threats when his photographs were used in various articles that criticized the governor of Veracruz, Javier Duarte de Ochoa, in 2015. The author Jos Midas Bartman uses the murder of Ruben in his article to highlight the point that critical journalists are subjected to extreme political violence.

In his article, “Murder in Mexico”, Jos Midas Bartman examines whether journalists are victims of general or targeted violence. Bartman draws on quantitative data to support his argument that journalists do face higher levels of violence and murder when compared to the rest of the Mexican population. He analyzes the various reasons why this subgroup is more susceptible to political violence, and makes a clear correlation between the targeting of journalists at the hands of local governments. Bartman makes the case that while the federal government is centralized and democratized, it is at the state level that government takes on a more authoritarian approach to silence those who are critical of local administrations and policies. 

Bartman attempts to be impartial by comparing both the official narrative that journalists are just victims of general violence, versus the unofficial narrative that journalists are a targeted group and are targeted so, not by criminal violence, but by state actors. By designating each narrative as a testable proposition, he labels the first narrative as P1 and the second as P2a and P2b (to account for the role of national and state politics). Testing the data by comparing the homicide rates of journalists and the general population at the state and national level, Bartman finds that journalists have a higher statistical chance of being targeted and killed when contrasted to the rates of general violence that the general Mexican population faces. He also finds that the levels of violence and murder vary, depending on state. 

To analyze these findings, the author uses testimony from NGOs and journalists, as well as, official government reports. Bartman addresses the biases inherent in the reliability of government records and narratives, including the problem of a disproportionate amount of unresolved cases (and hard evidence) in the deaths of these journalists. While this poses a problem with the second proposition in that there is no direct evidence that links state governments to the deaths of journalists, Bartman couples the findings of the quantitative data with the testimony of NGOs and journalists to lend to his argument that critical journalists are victims of state violence. 

Although Bartman’s findings do not delve deep into how and why state politics are involved in the murder of journalists, it is important to note that with his findings, useful and testable data points to the fact that journalists are a specifically targeted group. This is a reality that the federal government cannot afford to keep ignoring. Bartman argues that besides the violation of human rights, the killing of journalists also poses a problem with the idea of democracy. With violence continually directed towards critical journalists, government officials and leaders cannot be held accountable, thus moving Mexico further away from the bulwarks of truth and justice. 

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