Mexico's peacebuilders: Adrián López

Director, Editorial Group Noroeste
Originally an engineer from Tecnológico de Monterrey, Adrián decided to make journalism his profession. Since 2008, he is the director of the newspaper Noroeste and collaborates with several non-governmental organizations and business chambers in Sinaloa. He teaches ethics and citizen engagement in his alma mater and is currently a candidate for a Master in Public Management.

What work have you spent doing over the last decade?

When I was studying for my master’s in applied ethics I was invited to become Business Director for the newspaper El Mazatlan. That was my introduction in to journalism. I lived in Mazatlan during a very difficult time. In March 2008 the economic crisis in the United States began. Mazatlan is a city that lives from American tourism. However, the worst crisis came later when in 2011 Mazatlan became the city with the second highest murder rate in the country, nearly 307 homicides per year. Cruise ships stopped coming after the U.S. warned its citizens not to travel to Sinaloa. This had a heavy impact on the economy.

What are the biggest challenges in your profession?

We were the first newspaper in Mexico to present a set of criteria for violent content. Basically, we only publish violent content when two requirements are met: if it strengthens the rule of law, and if it is related to topics beyond security, for example, politics, vulnerable groups or the business sector. The journalistic tendency is to say that the news is made up of gunfights and shootouts, but we decided to give our stories a more ethical treatment. The idea is to not only be a mirror of reality but to build a message. We realized that we could contribute more to social stability if we found a way to treat violence without increasing fear or undermining economic development.

What have you accomplished?

It is very difficult to survive as an independent newspaper in this country. However, we have successfully positioned ourselves as a serious newspaper, objective, truthful, and critical. We follow issues that are sensitive to citizens, but are not always pleasant for the political class, as in the case of the driving licenses. There was a clear violation of human rights in the requirements to process a driving license in Sinaloa. We consulted with many experts and gave the issue wide coverage, and ultimately promoted a collective citizens movement against the measure. We also developed a network called “Open Parliament Sinaloa”, led by Noroeste with another eight civil society organizations. Its objective is to keep track of local congress decisions and make public every discussion session.

Is there freedom of expression in Mexico?

To say that there is, is a fallacy. I say that if Mexico were Twitter, Peña Nieto would not be president, however, Mexico is Televisa. The media at the state level receives funding by Governors, this happened after they realized that investing in their image could help them become President. We have media owners that have always been close to power, and that kills any chance of independent journalism.

Do you feel safe as a journalist in Mexico?

It is clear that as you become more visible, you become more undesirable to the powers that surround you (editor’s note: López was shot in an alleged assault). In Sinaloa, journalism is very difficult because we are caught in the crossfire between two actors: organized crime, which is a powerful force that goes completely unpunished; and the government, which also goes completely unpunished, although it is a bit more cautious about risk. That mix is a perfect breeding ground for a journalist to be a victim of violence. In our case we have been besieged and threatened and have about 90 previous investigations opened at the Public Ministry and at the Attorney General’s office.

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about Mexico’s future?

I see a pessimistic scenario in which things will not change much, organized crime in Mexico is a very complex problem and we continue without attacking the root of the problem. We keep burying bodies as if nothing happened. My optimistic viewpoint tells me that we are not the same Mexico we were in the seventies. We are approaching new levels of public discussion, of public demands, that are strongly broadcasted through new technologies and social networks. About 70 million young people in this country have a smartphone. I think that’s the hope, that Mexico, being such an unequal country, finds a way to have a common conversation. Just ten tweets sent to a senator are enough to make them start thinking about the political consequences of their actions.

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