Ten days ago today, the body of Misael Tamayo Hernandez, an editor for the newspaper, "El Despertar de la Costa," was found in the Venus Motel on a highway outside the resort city of Zihautanejo, Mexico. Partially clad, Hernandez was discovered under a thin sheet, his hands tied behind his back, the apparent victim of a heart attack. (AP) There were three puncture marks, on Mr. Hernandez, leading to widespread speculation of foul play, and that the prominent editor, widely respected for "waking up" his community with respect to government corruption, and organized crime, had been murdered.
Only hours earlier, "El Despertar de la Costa" published a story on the city's practice of giving illegal breaks on water services to individuals and local businesses. Unfortunately for him, Tamayo Hernandez now joins the growing ranks of journalists, in Mexico, who have been assaulted, and/or killed in that country, in the past few years, as a result of exposing drug trafficking, gangs, and corruption.
Even more disconcerting is news that, since January, 2006, some 75 journalists have been killed worldwide making this the deadliest year, on record, for those in the news reporting business, according to the World Association of Journalists. Over the past decade, more than 500 journalists have been slain; most of whom are, and will most likely remain, cold cases.
For more than two decades, PEN American Center has been commemorating the incarceration, and/or murder of writers. We salute PEN as for having named November 15th "The Day of the Imprisoned Writer," as well as for their ongoing efforts to address the issue of challenges to freedom of expression. As they report, since November, 2005, some 36 journalists around the world have been assasinated, most as a consequence of their investigative work. In Mexico alone, the slaying ofTamayo Hernandez marks the third time a journalist has been killed, in that country, this year.. Rosendo Pardo Ozuna , prominent critic of the Juan Sabines Guerrero government, was slain in March, and Enrique Perea Quintanilla, a well-respected crime writer who had also written on corruption in state government, turned up dead in early August.
No one will forget, most recently, the high profile, and wrenching report, out of Russia ,of the hunting down, and shooting of renowned journalist, and writer, Anna Politkovskaya, gunned down in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building on October 7th, a slaying that is widely thought to have resulted from her reporting of the Putin government's human rights abuses in Chechnya. Less than two weeks after Politkovskaya was gunned down, Anatoly Voronin, the business manager of Russia's premiere news agency, Itar-tass, was also murdered.
Still, over the past 48 hours,there has been a barrage of reports about Fox, and their aborted efforts to broadcast an inteview with O.J. Simpson. But, how quickly the mainstream media, and blogosphere, dropped any coverage, or inquiry into any connection between the death of a widely respected Moscow reporter, and her steadfast efforts, in the face of frequent threats, to expose torture on the part of her government. One would think chasing down facts, and getting to the bottom of who killed Anna P., Tamayo Hernandez, and the more than 30 journalists whose murder can be directly linked to their reporting would be a worthy enterprise for members of the press corps in this country, and internationally, but alas no such efforts appear to be underway. Ironically, the unprecedented assault on the press may itself be among the most under-reported, and under-covered stories of the year.
So it is then that, in the interest of equal time, with heartfelt respect for those who have made this great sacrifice to expose systemic corruption, as well as injustice, and in hopes that those most ambitious among us might be inspired to continue their work, as well as search for answers as to why they were targeted, I list the names of each and every writer who made the ultimate sacrifice this year: Guatam Das, Bangladesh; Roberto Ramos, Philippines; Gebran Tueni, Lebanon; Prahlad Goala, India; Vagif Kochetkov, Russia; Graciano Aquino, Philippines; Subramanlyam Sugirdharajan, Sri Lanka; Wu Xianghu, China; Muhsin Khudhai, Iraq; Rosendo Pardo Ozuna, Mexico, Orlando Tapios Mendoza, Philippines; Ilias Aktas , Turkey; Herliyanto, Indonesia; Vadim Gudik, Ukraine; Aran Narayan Dekate, India; Hayatullah Khan, Pakistan; Sampath Lakmal De Silva, Sri Lanka; Alaa Hassan, Iraq; Bapuwa Mwamba, Democratic Republic of Congo; Xiao Guopeng, China; Ajuricaba Monassa De Paula, Brazil; Yevgeny Gerasimenko, Russia; Riyad Atto, Iraq; Abdul Wahab Abdul Razeq Ahmad Al Qaisie, Iraq; Gregoiry De Bourg, Kazakhstan; Sinnathamby Sivamaharajah, Sri Lanka; Enrique Perea Quintanilla, Mexico; Jesus Flores Rojas, Venezuela; Guillermo Cabrera Medina, Colombia; Mohamed Taha, Sudan; Bellal Hossain Dafadar, Bangladesh; Magbool Hussein Siyal, Pakistan; Anna Politkovskaya, Russia; Jose Bonilla Romero, Colombia; Anatoly Voronin, Russia; Abdelmajid Ismael Khalil, Iraq; and Mohammad Ismail, Pakistan.
May they rest in peace, may their murders help awaken the coast, clear the borders of state-sanctioned lies, and may we not rest until we find out not only who killed them, but why, as there can be no message without a messenger.
Follow Jayne Lyn Stahl on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jaynelynstahl