Silencing Mexico: A Study of Influences on Journalists in the Northern States

Jeannine E. Relly, Celeste González de Bustamante

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


During President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa's administration, the military was called on to confront organized crime, and dozens of journalists were killed in Mexico. Attacks on journalists have continued under the new administration. This study focuses on the erosion of the democratic institution of the press in Mexico's northern states, for the majority of journalists murdered in the last decade worked in that region. Utilizing Shoemaker and Reese's hierarchy of influences model, this study examines pressures constraining the press working in a tide of violence. The thirty-nine semistructured, in-depth interviews with Mexican journalists, who report in five of the northern states, indicate the strongest influences came from outside newsrooms, where intimidation and unthinkable crimes were committed against the press along the entire border. Individual-level influences, such as lack of conflict-reporting training, safety concerns, and handling the trauma of covering violence, were among the strongest pressures often leading to self-censorship. Organizational-level influences, including newsroom policies and financial arrangements with government and business, also influenced journalistic practice. The study added an inter-media level for analyses of news organizations and individual journalists working together to increase safety. Additional findings show major disruptions in border reporting where news "blackouts" exist amid pockets of lawlessness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)108-131
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Journal of Press/Politics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014


  • conflict reporting
  • democratic institutions in Mexico
  • hierarchy of influences
  • press-state relations
  • violence and the press

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science


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