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Citizen Journalist Kidnapped and Killed in Mexico for Reporting on Organized Crime

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Image from Valor por Tamaulipas’ Google Plus account. “For you we will be strong. In memory of: María del Rosario Fuentes Rubio, 15-16 October 2014 in Reynosa. Kidnapped on 15 October in the Reynosa area. Rosario was a doctor dedicated to informing the community about dangers, with a heart as big as her courage, our Miut3.”

Citizen groups in the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas reported yesterday that Twitter user María del Rosario Fuentes Rubio​​ had been kidnapped and murdered. Although it is unknown who was responsible for her death, photographs of Fuentes Rubio's body appeared on her Twitter stream.

Her Twitter account ​@Miut3 ​was suspended shortly thereafter​. After María del Rosario supposedly asked for forgiveness for facing the drug lords, photos of her own murder were published, as well as a posthumous message that warned other citizen journalists to remain quiet about Reyonsa's violence because “you won’t get anything out of it.”

A​ Reynosa​ medical doctor, Fuentes Rubio volunteered as a contributor with Valor por Tamaulipas (Courage for Tamaulipas), a citizen media platform that allows users to file anonymous reports on violence, particularly incidents concerning organized crime and the drug trade. She also served as an administrator for Responsabilidad por Tamaulipas (Responsibility for Tamaulipas), a similar project associated with the first. ​The last post by “Valor for Tamaulipas” described her as “an angel who gave everything, her life, her future, her safety and peace (…) for the good of the people of the state.”​

This is not the first time individuals associated with these networks have been punished for their reporting. Since it was established in 2012, Valor por Tamaulipas has faced a range of threats and incidents of violence that at times have forced administrators to pause their activities.

Valor por Tamaulipas has been using social media to crowdsource reports from citizens in the state of Tamaulipas, which has been riddled with drug-related conflict and corruption since 2006. In February of 2013, an unidentified drug organization circulated a pamphlet offering MX$600,000 (about US$44,000) for information on the whereabouts of the administrator(s) of the Valor por Tamaulipas social media accounts. Shortly afterwards, @ValorTamaulipas announced plans to suspend reporting. But the network has since taken shape once more — violent crime continues to plague Tamaulipas and citizens continue to report on it.​​

This conflict has forced many traditional news organizations to curb their reporting on drug violence; the Committee to Protect Journalists estimates that sixteen journalists have been killed in Mexico since 2006, mostly due to their coverage of drug-related crime and corruption. ​As Darío Ramírez, general director of Article 19 in Mexico and Central America, said: “The violence against the press in Tamaulipas and the lack of protection for freedom of expression by the Mexican authorities has generated information vacuums in issues related to public security, for which social media has become an effective citizen tool to be freely informed about this acts.”​

As citizen and social media users work to fill this silence and report on what they see and hear on the ground, groups like VxT and individuals like Fuentes Rubio have become prime targets for drug organizations.

  • Cleo Raven

    When will governments admit that legalizing ALL drugs would solve so many issues??!!! To name just a few: creating jobs and new TAXES. Making sure the quality of drugs is proper, avoiding young kids who wanna buy marijuana to be proposed crystal meth or other more dangerous and addictive drugs, avoiding drug mafia to become richer and more powerful. So many advantages, and yet. Governments around the world spend so much money on drug repression etc… It doesn’t make sense. They will never succeed in making people not want to take drugs. When someone wants to take drugs that someone will find a way. Everyone should be able to choose what they want to do with their own body as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. If someone wants to use any drugs till they die then so be it. We are all gonna die one way or another anyway. Protecting people from themselves is a waste of time and energy, it is ridiculous. As long as one’s decision only concerns oneself then no one should have the right to say anything against one’s will. I want to do what I want with my body. Who are they to tell us what to do? How about fucking cigarettes and alcohool? The worst drugs ever. This world is sickening, only the most horrible people have power.

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  • jenacho

    While you make valid points, Cleo, I respectfully disagree. The problem of the illegal drug trade is far deeper than simply legalizing “ALL” drugs, nor do I agree that it is an appropriate solution.

    As a Washington state (US) resident, where marijuana has recently been legalized, I strongly support a worldwide effort to legalize marijuana. However, it takes more than simply legalizing the substance to put the illicit market out of business. For example, Washington pot retailers sell for approximately $30/gram while the going black-market rate is something like 1/3 of that: say, $10-$12/gram. To compete with the drug lords, the state will have to make a stronger effort to reduce the cost. This same concept would apply to any other drug, as well.

    Marijuana is no methamphetamine, though. I understand that individuals have “a right to do what they want with their bodies as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else,” but let’s face it: it DOES hurt others. Families, for one, are torn apart by chronic drug abusers (addicts), especially their children. They also tend to be unemployed and use social resources to meet basic needs, or to avoid trouble, or to (in a fleeting moment of desperation) seek costly treatment. Even though I support these social institutions, it would be ignorant to suggest that it had no impact on families, communities, and countries. Drug addiction is a serious problem, but I don’t think it will be solved by flooding our stores with meth, cocaine, or pills.

    The real tragedy here is that these illegal drug cartels are inflicting massive intimidation and violence upon the citizens of their countries. I believe there should be a worldwide effort to stop the greedy bloodshed. The US, for one, has a responsibility to share that struggle, too, since it is a large consumer of illegal drugs. Regardless of whether one believes the drugs should be legal or not, as Cleo points out, it should not hurt others. Yet, that’s the business of the drug cartels of Central and South America.

    I applaud the citizens who have the courage to stand up for themselves (and their families and communities) against these cartels.

  • jenacho

    Maria del Rosario Fuentes Rubio: Your loss is an injustice to humanity. Yet, the real tragedy is the continuous cycle of terror, violence, and murder plaguing the lives and communities of those unfortunate to live among thugs and drug lords. Undoubtedly, Rubio is just one named victim in countless unnamed crimes. Perhaps one day the people of Mexico (and other countries) will have peace and justice.

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  • JustSaying

    Je Suis Maria. What is happening in your country is no different than what happened in France. Free Speech es numero uno for a democracy libre.

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