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Comments by YACCS
Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Intimidation with e-mail vs intimidation with guns

About that article

From a TPM Reader who covers the White House ...

You've puzzled out some of the reasons for which reporters feel besieged: Instant and often nasty feedback, the upsurge in criticism from the Left (and in "lynch them all" rhetoric on the Left, which is quite different from, say, the "On Bended Knee" or Daily Howler criticism). I've never felt intimidated (though I have been threatened with violence, spat on, and had a battery thrown at me). More like tired, or frustrated, or angry.

But you've missed the biggest reason: The instant "feedback" doesn't just go to our editors and publishers. Because our email addresses are out there and because of search engines that make it easy to get our home addresses and telephone numbers, the "feedback" is more and more hitting us personally.

I don't pretend to understand McCurry's rant, but when a colleague is the target of a blog-inspired swarm ("here is his email. Go tell him what you think!"), they can count on about 10-1000 emails, many of them including threats of violence. Or when a prominent talk show host pretends to puzzle over the Jewish last name of another colleague, repeatedly asking "hmmm, what kind of name is that" the result is the sudden arrival of copies of the New Testament at her home address.

Josh, that's at least a bit intimidating. "I know where you live" is just not the same as "Howell really screwed up the Abramoff thing."

I have had people (three men) show up at my front door at 9 am on a Saturday morning to complain about my coverage of their cause and demand to be invited in. I had another two guys stalk me, waiting until I left my office at 10 pm to accost me and take issue with my coverage of their pet issue.

That's f---ing creepy enough when you're a single guy. It must be downright horrifying if you're a single woman. And, yes, intimidating.

Uncomfortable, yes. But intimidating?

The Mexican journalists of Nuevo Laredo can discuss intimitation of a rather more serious sort

Posted February 24, 2006

Public relations specialists here, like those around the world, are experts at managing bad news. So when the relative of a client was murdered recently, they made a few phone calls and kept his name out of the papers. The only difference in this city of 300,000 across the Rio Grande from Laredo, Texas, is that "press officers" tend to work for drug kingpins rather than company executives.

And reporters who ignore the advice of this breed of spin doctor tend to end up dead.

A quiet word rather than an explicit threat is usually all that's needed in a city where law enforcement is crippled and the population terrorized, reporters and editors in Nuevo Laredo told the Committee to Protect Journalists. But every once in a while there's a physical reminder of just how vulnerable journalists are. On February 6, unidentified gunmen fired assault rifles and tossed a grenade at the offices of El Mañana newspaper, gravely wounding reporter Jaime Orozco and causing heavy damage to the building. After weeks in intensive care, Orozco is slowly recovering.

El Mañana Editor Ramón Cantú immediately said the daily would scale back its already curtailed coverage of drug traffickers and organized crime to protect its staff. It has been censoring news coverage since its previous editor, Roberto Javier Mora García, was stabbed to death in March 2004.

Two days after the attack on El Mañana, the federal government reacted to a wave of national outrage by announcing it would name a special prosecutor to investigate crimes against journalists. President Vicente Fox had pledged in a meeting with CPJ in New York in September that he would seek to create the position. On February 22, Fox made good on the promise by appointing David Vega Vera, a well-known lawyer and human rights advocate. "Whoever attacks freedom of expression, attacks society," Fox said in announcing the appointment.

he president's statement acknowledged that attacks on journalists in Nuevo Laredo and elsewhere in the border region have become a national issue, and it recognized that the federal government needs to do more to protect the press. The El Mañana probe is the first task for federal authorities, who have taken over the case from the state investigators.

But the federal government will face an enormous challenge in a city like Nuevo Laredo, where 181 people were killed last year, including the police chief and a city security official.

Already, the culture of fear has had devastating effects on the media. Most journalists interviewed for this article were too afraid for their safety to give their names. They acknowledged that they censored themselves out of fear of retribution. Several journalists said they had stopped going out to cover a story after dark or in the early morning.

The fact is that many people feel that the Washington media has failed them in rather spectacular manner, and now want to hold them accountable. People showing up to your door should be asked to leave or have the police escort them off their property. Although I would bet that cause was the kind which created rather nutty followers, like Falun Gong.

But to call e-mails intimidation? When the hell were reporters supposed to work in a vacuum? Why are they afraid of public accountability, the same kind they supposedly hold public figures.

Let's not forget, and not just in Iraq, there are journalists who do their job every day under the risk of violence. They aren't worried about e-mails. They're worried about the men who show up with guns.

posted by Steve @ 10:24:00 AM

10:24:00 AM

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