Mexican Journalists Feel Sorry for Trump-Battered US Media, Voice Their Solidarity (Guest Blog)

Mexican branch of PEN International issues open letter “at this time of an unprecedented, relentless assault on the free press of the United States”

A group of 189 Mexican journalists have signed an open letter calling out President Donald Trump’s frequent attacks on the press and expressing solidarity with the American media.

“At this time of an unprecedented, relentless assault on the free press of the United States by the Trump administration, we Mexican journalists, writers, and publishers stand in solidarity with you as you do your crucial work,” according to the letter, published Monday by global writers’ association PEN International.

Mexico historically has been one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, and those who signed the letter have ample experience dealing with repression. Last year, 10 Mexican journalists were killed, according to media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders.

Mexico “is a place that continues to have problems, and investigative journalism especially is a very dangerous job there,” said Ernest Sotomayor, director of Latin American initiatives for the Columbia School of Journalism.

“For decades you have stood by us as successive governments and criminal gangs have targeted our press and assassinated our journalists for doing work in the public interest — uncovering crimes and corruption,” the letter said. “And so many times we have only known the truth about our own country by reading the stories followed and uncovered in the U.S. press. We urge you to continue to uphold freedom of expression as your society, institutions, and values depend upon it.”

The letter follows years of collegial relations between the two nations’ press corps and literary communities. In 2015, more than 600 writers and journalists — including CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, author Junot Díaz and The New Yorker editor-in-chief David Remnick — signed a similar open letter to Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto decrying the regular murder of reporters there.

That Mexican journalists who regularly face violence for doing their work now feel the need to voice support for the American press is a stark reminder of the political climate toward the media under the Trump administration. “Even though we haven’t seen a lot of the direct interference [such as murders], [Mexican journalists] recognize some of the danger signs in the words and the way things are said” by Trump, said Gregg Leslie, legal defense director at the Reporters Committee For Freedom of the Press in Washington, D.C.

Jennifer Clement, a Mexican journalist and president of PEN International, said the group was moved to act in solidarity with its U.S. counterparts. The American press “has been an extraordinary example to the world and something people looked up to,” she said. “To the world, the American dream is not having two cars… to the world the American dream is freedom.”

The treatment of the U.S. press by the Trump administration, particularly the barring of news organizations from briefings, has been “shocking” to journalists in Mexico, Clement says. “The deepest feeling that Mexicans feel is complete sadness, because we feel deeply connected to the U.S.” Clement said.

The American press is under a sustained verbal attack by both the Trump administration and sympathetic alt-right outlets such as Breitbart News, founded by senior Trump adviser Steve Bannon. As president he has called CNN “fake news,” barred news organizations including CNN, the BBC, The New York Times, Politico, The Guardian and BuzzFeed from White House press briefings, and called the media “the enemy of the American people.”

Benjamin Reeves is a New York based journalist and writer. His work has appeared in publications including Worth, Los Angeles Review of Books, USA Today, Miami Herald, Talking Points Memo and Vice, among others. Follow him on Twitter: @bpreeves.