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Documenting the perils of working as a journalist in Mexico

Organized crime and government corruption have made Mexico one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists, especially those reporting on those issues. Emmanuel Guillén Lozano, a photographer who fled Mexico last year after receiving death threats, highlights those risks in his series “Blackness,” on display this week at the Photoville festival in New York City. He joins Ivette Feliciano for more.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Mexico has become one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists. Since last year, at least nine have been murdered and more than a dozen are missing as drug cartels, organized crime and government corruption pose dangerous threats for journalists who investigate and report on these issues.

    Emmanuel Guillén Lozano is a documentary photographer who fled Mexico and now lives in the United States. His work is part of a photo exhibition in New York highlighting attacks on the press in Mexico. NewsHour Weekend's Ivette Feliciano recently sat down with him to discuss his work, and the dangers he escaped.

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    Emmanuel Guillén Lozano, thank you so much for joining us. Back in Mexico you covered disappearances, you even shortly embedded with the infamous Sinaloa cartel. Do you remember the photographs that began to put your life at risk?

  • EMMANUEL GUILLÉN LOZANO:

    Do you know I spent over a year getting threats from cartel members from different parts of Mexico and I was kind of cool with it just because you know, that as long as you didn't mess with them as long, as you didn't go to their territories again, it's going to be fine for you in most of the cases maybe not always but in most of them.

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    As long as you didn't go back.

  • EMMANUEL GUILLÉN LOZANO:

    Yeah, exactly. So at a certain point after working in the case of the 43 students who disappeared in Guerrero in Mexico, it's started to get some attention outside Mexico. And I think that was the motivation of why the truth started to change the nature of them.

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    What's the public perception of the work that you do? Is it, here the press has been called an "enemy of the people." Is it just the cartels who want to harm you or is the Mexican government resentful?

  • EMMANUEL GUILLÉN LOZANO:

    Definitely, I will say that the journalistic community in Mexico is more afraid of the government than the cartels themselves.

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    Why is that?

  • EMMANUEL GUILLÉN LOZANO:

    Because you know, in most of the cases the cartels and the government are deeply, deeply connected. And sometimes there are even like the same, they are members of the government that are involved in narco trafficking and that kind of things. Especially for the journalists who are like local, who works for like local newspapers of local media. For me, they are the ones who are more vulnerable because we know people like me have the option to go to these places just for a few days or maybe for a couple of weeks and then you can go back home and be safer. But those who live right in the place are in more vulnerable situations because they are targeted way easier than us.

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    Is the Mexican government doing anything to protect journalists like yourself?

  • EMMANUEL GUILLÉN LOZANO:

    They are pretending to. You know, there is a law to protect journalists but it's the useless thing, you could imagine. Literally 99 percent of the cases are not being solved or even investigated because most of the times there is some part of a government in a certain level from the municipal level to federal level who is involved, somehow, almost in all cases.

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    Why do you and your colleagues continue to put your lives on the line for this work?

  • EMMANUEL GUILLÉN LOZANO:

    My country, it's being suffering is such a long period of violence that we all want to tell this story about in order to you know maybe, if we publish the right thing, if we take the right picture, if we say the right words, maybe something might happen at some point. Also for our own collective memory. And I think all of my colleagues have the intention to contribute to solve the problem by documenting it.

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    Emmanuel Guillén Lozano, thank you so much for joining us

  • EMMANUEL GUILLÉN LOZANO:

    Thank you so much for having me.

Emmanuel Guillén Lozano’s series “Blackness” is on view this week as part of the Bronx Documentary Center’s exhibition “Attacks on the Press: Mexico” at the Photoville Festival in New York City.

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