Narco News Launches Tri-Lingual Coverage
Drug Legalization Summit, Authentic Journalists, Merge in Mexico
By Adriana Veloso
Narco News Authentic Journalism Scholar
February 12, 2003
Trilingual introductions on the first night of the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism, on Monday, February 10th: at the beginning of a project that will broaden the coverage of Narco News to Brazil… Different backgrounds heading up to the Yucatán peninsula… People from various parts of the world with a common interest, reporting what is not being told by mainstream media, getting the news out to the world, from the cocaleros – the farmers who grow the coca leaf in Bolivia, the activists in Colombia, the grassroots media makers in Venezuela, from the Brazilian favelas to the suburbs in New York, California, New Mexico etc.
Photo D.R. John Gilmore 2003
From the opening session held in the town of Puerto Morelos, everyone is excited about this gathering, about sharing knowledge and life experience. Adam Saytanides, reporting from Chicago and New Mexico, can hardly wait to see what will happen. Neither can George Sanchez, from San Francisco California, who also believes that this is a good opportunity to talk about freeing journalism from its corruption by commerce, revitalizing the media in a democratic sense. The passion is flourishing. Andrea Arenas, from Bolivia, highlights that everyone is learning the realities of other countries while talking to each other. These 26 authentic students are bringing media activism in their countries to the world, speaking from the voices of their communities. Anthony Lappe, from the Guerrilla News Network, used to work in corporate media where he realized that the mainstream organizations are really in the business of entertainment and felt a need to deconstruct stories. “What kind of journalism do we wanna do?” asks Anthony.
Photo D.R. Jeremy Bigwood 2003
The School of Authentic Journalism, an effort launched by Al Giordano, the Narco News publisher, will have one main assignment which is the coverage of the Drug Legalization Summit held in Merida from the 12th to the 17th of February. John Gilmore, one of the Narco News advisors in the school, hopes to inspire people writing on the drug war issue and Alex Contreras, writing Evo Morales’ biography in Bolivia, are ready to start working. He is one of the Latin Americans who won a scholarship to attend this culture jamming of media makers. Gilmore thinks that people in Latin America should combine efforts to reform the drug war laws since everyone who is here was touched in some way by the drug war.
Zabeth Flores from Mexico City said she could only understand the concept of authentic journalism, first named by Mario Menendez, editor and publisher for the daily newspaper Por Esto!, when she got to the Yucatan peninsula and started talking to people. Everybody has a life story on media activism that reflects their passion. Anthony Lappe thinks that Guerrilla News does authentic journalism in a way that uses the voice differently. Giordano defines authentic journalism as the stories that serve the majority, not the advertisers, like the inspiring Por Esto! has been doing in the last ten years.
Por Esto! Cancun editor Renán Castro Madera, with Narco News Scholar Zabeth Flores
Photo D.R. Jeremy Bigwood 2003
A visit to the Cancun offices of Por Esto! on Tuesday morning February 11th and a speech by the editor Renán Castro Madera was the first lesson we have had. Renán described their investigation about the involvement of the banker Roberto Hernandez Ramirez, from Banamex, the former National Bank of Mexico, now a subsidiary of Citigroup, with the traffic of Colombian cocaine. From the island of San Andres, Colombia, dozens of speedboats containing one and a half tons of cocaine each, would leave every week for Mexico. Their port was a beach located in a fishing village in one of the 53 km of seashore in Quintana Roo owned by Hernández. For three months Renán Castro and photographers from Por Esto! lived in the village until the week they accomplished their investigation. Pictures were taken and they denounced the role of this close friend of Mexico`s last three presidents in the international drug trade. Once the Mexican police saw the newspaper, instead of investigating the drug dealers, called the Por Esto! crew into court twenty times for questioning about how that information arrived to them.
And this was just the beginning of many stories on the drug war – and how journalists report it – that are being told here in Merida, the capital of Yucatán, the third campus location in only the first 24 hours of the School of Authentic Journalism.
Blanca Eekhout, coordinator of the longest running of Venezuela‘s 25 Community TV and Radio stations, Catia TV, comments that the journalists of the daily Por Esto! can be close to their community because they listen to Mayan citizens (the newspaper’s reporters Santos Us Ake and Lisandro Coronado Alcocer, also with us as professors on Tuesday – Castro explained to the J-School students – speak fluent Mayan) in the villages that have preserved their indigenous traditions.
Blanca also mentioned the big assemblies held every two weeks with the newspaper‘s readers. She says that this investigative journalism does not end, in effect, with mere accusations of criminal activity, but rather should be directed toward pushing the authorities to combat such wrongdoing. Pablo Ramón, from Colombia, admires the work of the Por Esto! editors and publishers, since in his country they lack an authentic press to investigate society’s true problems.
This internationally celebrated example of investigative journalism, reported by Por Esto!, is part of a war that continues today. Those who have the economic and the political power to run many Latin American countries without the participation of their own community are also involved in corruption. This story repeats itself not only in Quintana Roo, on Mexico’s Caribbean coastline, where other speedboats still arrive. It also occurs in Brazil, in Paraguay, in Colombia, in Chile, and it will never end until the people from all these lands develop – as begins tomorrow in Mérida – a united front. If the collaborations between people from all these lands at the Mérida Legalization Summit this week enjoy the same border-crossing collaboration already underway in the School of Authentic Journalism, then anything can happen.
Full Disclosure: The author wishes to acknowledge the material assistance, encouragement, and guidance, of The Narco News Bulletin, The Narco News School of Authentic Journalism, publisher Al Giordano and the rest of the faculty, and of the Tides Foundation. Narco News is a co-sponsor and funder of the international drug legalization summit, “OUT FROM THE SHADOWS: Ending Prohibition in the 21st Century,” in Mérida, Yucatán, and is wholly responsible for the School of Authentic Journalism whose philosophy and methodology were employed in the creation of this report. The writing, the opinions expressed, and the conclusions reached, if any, are solely those of the author.
Apertura total: El autor desea reconocer la asistencia material, el ánimo y la guía de The Narco News Bulletin, La Escuela de Narco News de Periodismo Auténtico, su Director General Al Giordano y el resto del profesorado, y de la Fundación Tides. Narco News es copatrocinador y financiador del encuentro internacional sobre legalización de las drogas “Saliendo de las sombras: terminando con la prohibición a las drogas en el siglo XXI” en Mérida, Yucatán, y es completamente responsable por la Escuela de Periodismo Auténtico, cuya filosofía y metodología fueron empleadas en la elaboración de esta nota. La escritura, las opiniones expresadas y las conclusiones alcanzadas, si las hay, son de exclusiva responsabilidad del autor.
Abertura Total: O autor deseja reconhecer o material de apoio, o propósito e o guia do Boletim Narco News. a Escola de Jornalismo Autêntico, o editor Al Giordano, o restante de professores e a Fundaçáo Tides. Narco News é co-patrocinador e financiador do encontro sobre a legalizaçao das drogas Saindo das Sombras: terminando com a proibiçao das drogas no século XXI em Mérida, Yucatan, e é completamente responsável pela Escola de Jornalismo Autêntico, cuja filosofia e metodologia foram implantadas na elaboraçao desta reportagem. O texto, as opinioes expressadas e as conclusoes alcançadas, se houver, sao de responsabilidade do autor.
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