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'Why do they want to silence us?'

May 27, 2019

The exiled Mexican journalist has received Deutsche Welle's Freedom of Speech Award at the Global Media Forum. In her acceptance speech, she issued a warning against organized crime and a plea for truth.

Anabel Hernández
Image: DW/R. Oberhammer

Anabel Hernández receives Freedom of Speech Award

"For months I contemplated the bulletproof vest that the government of Mexico gave me in 2016, shortly before publishing my last book on the case of the 43 students who disappeared in Iguala in the state of Guerrero in September 2014.

"It was a way of warning me: 'you have gone too far' in your investigations. But even with the vest in front of me I refused to think about myself and the risk. There has always been something more important: truth and justice."

Anabel Hernandez's work as a journalist had put her in the firing line. Following that direct threat to her personal safety, she took action. Today she lives in exile and incognito. For twenty years now, she has reported tirelessly about corruption, the drug trade, sexual exploitation and injustice. DW honored this work with its Freedom of Speech Award, presented to Hernandez during the Global Media Forum in Bonn.

'Why do they kill us?'

Hernandez survived — in contrast to more than 100 journalists, who have been killed in Mexico during the past decade. Mexico has the highest murder rate for journalists in the world.

"But why are they killing us?" Hernandez asks. "Why are they threatening us? Why are they imprisoning us? Why do they want to silence us?"

She knows the answer herself: "Today in many nations it is not the citizens who make the decisions about their destiny on a daily basis but groups that concentrate more political, economic, technological and social power every day. They take possession of natural resources, of our minds through the control of communication platforms and social networks, and impose on us a model of life, of "success," of "happiness" that will generate more benefits for them. For them there are no borders or walls, only privileges and impunity."

Those groups operate behind closed doors, on the edge of legality, Hernandez told the Global Media Forum. Journalists are a threat to them, as they try to shed light on that darkness.

"It doesn't matter if they are prime ministers, presidents, congressmen, bankers, businessmen, politicians, religious leaders or if they are the heads of a drug cartel. It is up to us journalists to find out what they do, how they do it, why they do it and who their accomplices are," she said.

"That's why they're killing us."

'We're still standing'

The murder of a journalist is "an attack on democracy, the rule of law and the respect that each of us deserves as individuals," said British journalist Misha Glenny in his eulogy to Anabel Hernandez. It was, Glenny said, a miracle that Hernandez is still alive. 

Glenny pointed out that such murders are almost invariably carried out "in the service of corrupt political and economic actors, human and institutional, or well-resourced criminal operations." Anabel Hernandez is, he said "one of those courageous analysts who have identified how agents of the state have illegally benefited from the Mexican Drug War just as the cartels have."

The recipient of the Deutsche Welle Freedom of Speech Award 2019 ended her speech with a stark warning: "They want us dead, they want us silenced ... but we are still standing and we make our voices heard."

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Martin Muno
Martin Muno Digital immigrant, interested in questions of populism and political power