Why you should sign the letter for press freedom in response to the death of Indymedia journalist Brad Will

This post is meant to encourage you to read and sign this letter for press freedom.

Brad Will’s death has been used as an excuse by Mexican President Vicente Fox to send thousands of federal troops to repress the political uprising in Oaxaca. US Ambassador to Mexico Antonio Garza signalled his support for that move when he called for a return to “lawfulness and order.”

This is a very ugly precedent. As Al Giordano from Narco News told the Village Voice, “Anytime the local forces of repression can’t contain a rebellion in Mexico and want the feds to storm in, the recipe now exists: Kill a foreign journalist.”

Mexico was already ranked as the most dangerous country in Latin America for journalists by Reporters Without Borders. Since Brad’s death, violent attacks on journalists have greatly increased, especially in Oaxaca.

“Press freedom” is not my primary focus in media activism. If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ve mostly heard me talk about new wireless technologies and digital expansion. Before October 27, I hadn’t been much involved with Indymedia for quite some time, and even then I was pretty focused on IMCs within the US.

But it is important that we protect the wing of our movement that makes personal sacrifices to tell vital stories. Without the courage to speak truth to power, our efforts to build open lines of communication – no matter how successful – will never set us free.

Anthony Riddle of the Alliance for Community Media has written an eloquent letter to Ambassador Garza emphasizing precisely this point:

All American citizens must be protected by the full power of our government wherever they travel in the world. This is especially the case when that citizen is a journalist attempting to report the truth in a dangerous situation. When the members of the press are subjected to physical attack, it is our values of freedom and of democracy which suffer…

Our government and mainstream press should feel the same outrage over this killing as over the death of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. If anything, reporters who give of their own resources and work under such dangerous circumstances are even more deserving of our respect and protection because of the great personal sacrifice they endure in the quest for the information we need to exist as a free people.

I’ve revised it and posted it to the Friends of Brad Will site to allow more people and organizations to sign on.

Many already have, including Free Press, New America Media, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, Prometheus Radio Project, People’s Production House, National Federation of Community Broadcasters, and Media Alliance, as well as DeeDee Halleck (Deep Dish), Craig Newmark (founder of Craigslist), Lisa Rudman (National Radio Project), Noelle Hanrahan (Prison Radio) and seven separate Indymedia centers (NYC, LA, AZ, Philly, Santa Cruz, Indybay, US).

It’s already a broad and powerful effort, but it needs to grow further to ensure our right to report.

In signing the letter, the NYC IMC made the following statement:

The New York City Independent Media Center urges all US IMCs and US-based media organizations to join us in signing this letter calling for the US to press for a full investigation into the death of Brad Will, Indymedia reporter, and for freelance and community journalists to be given the same backing and protection given journalists employed by large corporations.

For an update on the investigations into Brad’s death, see Chris Anderson’s wrapup.

The sad fact is that there is no level of government, US or Mexican, with the credibility to conduct a full and fair investigation.

As recently released documents from the National Security Archives show, the US has a terrible track record of covering up for government-sponsored atrocities in Mexico.

The Oaxaca Prosecutor General Lizbeth Caña Cadeza, under the supervision of Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, is the least credible of all. I don’t trust it when police investigate themselves in Warren, Michigan, and I certainly do not believe it when it happens in Oaxaca.

So when a reporter for Milenio, whose photographer Oswaldo Ramirez was injured alongside Brad Will, asked the NYC IMC to comment on Cadeza’s accusation that APPO protesters shot Brad, we released this statement:

Here’s what we do know: the Governor of Oaxaca, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, has a proven track record of sending plainclothes paramilitaries to commit murder and other human rights violations against the people of Oaxaca. We do not trust him or any of his underlings – underlings who include Oaxaca Prosecutor General Lizbeth Caña Cadeza. We have absolutely no confidence in the results of the “investigation” of Brad Will’s murder carried out by Prosecutor Cadeza.

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