<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
 English | Español October 24, 2014 | Issue #43


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For Lack of a Laptop, “a Country Called América” Is In Greater Danger Today

An Emergency Appeal After the Crash of the Hard Drive in the Narco Newsroom


By Bill Conroy
The Fund for Authentic Journalism

December 1, 2006

“A great writer is, so to speak, a second government in his country. And for that reason no regime has ever loved great writers, only minor ones.”

– Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, Russian writer (1918-)

Dear friends,

On Thursday, November 30, Narco News Publisher Al Giordano disappeared from the Internet. Suddenly, he wasn’t on Email, or on Skype, or on Instant Messenger, nor could we find him online. That’s rare, because he always keeps some of us posted as to his whereabouts when he is not going to be online. Given the story of repression that Al has been covering in Mexico – the arrests, torture and worse of voices inconvenient to those in power, including of independent journalists – I worried not just for Al, but for all the correspondents for whom he daily coordinates support. Could it be that the comfortable that he has afflicted for so long “from somewhere in a country called América” finally decided to disappear him as they have others?

The fears proved unfounded. Al is fine. Within a half hour I received word from Greg Berger, the documentary filmmaker in Mexico, that Al was indeed incommunicado online, but not disappeared. But his primary work tool wasn’t as lucky: the laptop that Al has written on for the past two years, he said, made a loud screeching noise and then simply ceased to exist. This, hours before the culmination of the Mexican Coup d’Etat that Al has reported on so extensively. And with the new regime tightening the screws on dissent and speech in Mexico, suddenly one of our clearest writers and witnesses is severely handicapped from doing the work that we count on him to do.

It’s obvious what we who depend on those reports need to do, and that we need to do it immediately: get a replacement laptop in his hands.

Thus, I am asking you to join me in this emergency fund drive by making a contribution today to The Fund for Authentic Journalism, with your credit card or with your PayPal account if you have one, via this link:

http://www.authenticjournalism.org/

Or send your donation to:

The Fund for Authentic Journalism
P.O. Box 241
Natick, MA 01760

If enough contributions arrive by Monday, we can get that work tool in his hands by Friday. If not, the wait could be longer. In the meantime, I’m sure our correspondent will seek alternate routes to breaking the information blockade.

In the context of the Solzhenitsyn quote above, Giordano is without question a “great writer” that the “regime” does not love – to say the least. He and his fellow Narco News journalists make up a fine-tuned band with a worldwide following that many who now wield power would surely like to silence.

I recently wrote to Al, in response to one of his reports:

“You have a gift of pulling a reader through a complex, unfamiliar land that could easily lead them off a cliff to nowhere, and instead you managed to launch the reader to a better place.

“No bullshit, man. You’re damn good, as you know. And even a middle-aged ringer like me can learn a few things from you—and I am.

“But of course you know that you are a target; if they shut down Narco News, and in their minds, though you may hope for another outcome, and we would try, they, in the words of Billy Bragg, would believe they had killed ‘the worm in the wood.’

“That’s not a trip to lay on you I know, but it is heartfelt, and I wouldn’t feel right, given my life experience to date, if I never said as much to you.”

Al is known across the world, respected by many good people and feared by many bad ones for the insightful reporting he does and fosters others to do. But unlike a lot of “star” writers, Al is not a solo act out for himself or career glory. I recently had the opportunity to see him in action coordinating a road team of Narco News journalists last month in Ciudad Juárez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, when they were there covering the Zapatista Other Campaign.

Knowing that my own reports on the “House of Death” in that city had upset some local police and criminals there, he insisted on accompanying me from the moment I entered Mexican territory to the moment, two days later, when I headed back into Texas. I walked across one of the international bridges connecting El Paso and Juárez to meet Al Giordano on the Mexican side of that border on Saturday afternoon, Oct. 31, Halloween.

Giordano picked me up in a borrowed car that was running on empty and he quickly found a parking spot near another international crossing point – the Stanton-Lerdo bridge. We got out of the car and began walking the streets of Juárez. As we approached the Stanton-Lerdo bridge, Giordano told me that the next day, Nov. 1, the Zapatista spokesman Subcomandante Marcos and members of the Other Campaign were going to walk to the center of that arched stretch of pavement and shut down the border. Giordano said that the rebel spokesman was going to do this even at the risk of arrest, or a worse fate.

Giordano knew this because he is a damn good journalist. But we weren’t walking the streets in front of that bridge because he was out to impress me. No, we were there because Giordano wanted to stake out the safest locations for the other Narco News journalists who would be covering the bridge action that next day. Giordano knew the one thing all great journalists know about covering the big story: danger is always lurking in its shadows. And the safety of his colleagues is always foremost on Giordano’s mind.

It turned out that Giordano’s precautions were well merited, as documented on Narco News in a story about the aggressive and heavily armed presence of US law enforcement agencies on and hovering over the bridge.

It was that same all-out concern for the safety of other journalists that Giordano displayed in 2005 when federal police came to my home and office trying to intimidate me into giving up my sources of leaked documents embarrassing to the US Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security. For various sleepless nights and days, Al wrote and worked the telephone to support me and to blow the whistle on the aggression high and low, bringing immediate support from other journalists around the world and even from members of the US Congress. Needless to say, the aggressors backed off.

I’ve witnessed how he does it in Bolivia, in 2004, and now in Mexico too. And, to tell the truth, if I were working in Mexico right now, like other Narco News journalists, and Al suddenly wasn’t available online to run that kind of interference, we would all feel much more exposed and vulnerable in this work.

Which is why it is obviously so urgent and important to get another laptop into his hands right away. The irony here is that his laptop is the most valuable object that Al owns. In all these years, he has not peddled his notoriety into possessions or riches. He still doesn’t own a car or a home, nor does it appear to bother him that he doesn’t. I know how many times Al as reached out to us to support and defend the work of so many other journalists, and how frugally he lives to be able to provide that to us. Now it’s our turn to keep him doing what he does so well.

As long as that courageous Narco News crew has the right equipment to continue the battle, like that little laptop that connects them to the army of the people, they have a fighting chance to continue telling the truth.

So please, donate what you can to protect the authentic journalists on the front line of this struggle. Again, you can do so online:

http://www.authenticjournalism.org/

Or via mail:

The Fund for Authentic Journalism
P.O. Box 241
Natick, MA 01760

I, among others, will feel much better when we get that tool back in the hands of someone we all count to keep ourselves informed and, in the case of many journalists, one who, with little more than a laptop, looks out for our safety like nobody else.

Sincerely,

Bill Conroy
Correspondent, Narco News
Treasurer, The Fund for Authentic Journalism

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America