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Border & Immigration

'Reportero' Examines The Risk Of Reporting The Drug War

Watch Reportero - Trailer on PBS. See more from POV.

'Reportero' follows the reporters of Zeta, a Tijuana weekly newspaper, who face a constant threat of death as they dig into the drug war

'Reportero' Highlights Dangers of Journalism in Mexico
The new documentary features Zeta, a courageous Tijuana news weekly, and is screening at the San Diego Latino Film Festival on Sunday.
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Fronteras Desk covered Bernardo Ruiz's documentary "Reportero" in March. The film airs on PBS Jan. 7, 2013 and online Jan. 8 - Feb. 6, 2013

Hector Felix Miranda was a popular Tijuana columnist -- respected by readers, but reviled by the people he wrote about, most often Tijuana’s political elite.

When he was gunned down in the late 1980s, it was a wake-up call for the staff of Zeta -- the scrappy weekly newspaper Felix founded to challenge Baja California’s culture of political corruption. The slaying showed that freedom of expression in Mexico was not free.

That was 24 years ago, when the biggest threat to a Mexican free press was the country’s all-controlling single party government: the PRI. Today, the dangers from drug cartels are more widespread, more brazen and with big guns.

More than 40 journalists have been murdered in Mexico since 2007, many of them for reporting on the country’s ongoing drug war. To protect their staffs, many news outlets now openly self-censor.

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Through that evolution, as many newspapers have backed off, Zeta’s staff has pressed on, through murders and attempted murders of its staff.

Bernardo Ruiz’s documentary, Reportero, takes us to Tijuana -- to visit Zeta’s journalists as they cope with the daily dangers of uncovering the illicit ties between power, money and drugs in Mexico’s largest border city.

“As journalists we couldn’t ignore this real problem that was growing in our society," said Adela Navarro Bello, Zeta's current editor.

The cost has been great. A second editor was killed in front of his children, and a third narrowly survived after being riddled with bullets. Others were threatened.

Through interviews and archival footage, "Reportero" documents each of these unpunished crimes, and as the bloodshed mounts –- as journalists don bodyguards and bulletproof vests -- it ponders a key question: At what point is the story no longer worth the danger?

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