By Megan Loock
Elm Staff Writer
On Sept. 16, the Rose O’Neill Literary House, the Department of World Languages and Cultures, the Latin American Studies Program, the Goldstein Program in Public Affairs, and the William James Forum at Washington College co-sponsored and celebrated the second day of Latinx Heritage Month with “The Dangers of Reporting the Truth: Journalism in Mexico,” a webinar panel discussion with Mexican independent journalist Témoris Grecko.
Associate Professor of Spanish and Director of the Black Studies Program Dr. Elena Deanda-Camacho led the webinar that aired live on both Zoom and Facebook. Dr. Deanda-Camacho was accompanied by two American Sign Language translators who alternated throughout the webinar.
Grecko is a regular contributor to Proceso, a left-wing news magazine in Mexico, and Aristegui Noticias, a team of intrepid reporters whose investigations have exposed corruption and malfeasance by the powerful in Mexico, according to the International Center for Journalists website. Grecko has published five books in Spanish, including his most recent book “Killing The Story.” He has also produced two documentaries “Watching Them Die: The Mexican Army and the 43 Disappeared” and “The Truth Shall Not Be Killed.”
Grecko has worked in 91 countries; he has covered conflicts in Syria, Egypt, Libya, Iran, Palestine, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Philippines. He interviewed domestic slaves in Lebanon, traveled with Central American migrants through Mexico, and was kidnapped by militiamen in Syria, all for his reporting.
“In ‘Killing the Story,’ award-winning journalist and filmmaker Témoris Grecko reveals how journalists are risking their lives to expose crime and corruption. From the streets of Veracruz to the national television studios of Mexico City, Grecko writes about the heroic work of reporters at all levels,” according to the synopsis on Amazon.
The webinar was supposed to be a presentation with a Q&A component at the end, however, Dr. Deanda-Camacho wanted to turn the webinar into a discussion and talk about violence against journalists and the broader status of journalism around the world, as well as the concept of freedom of speech in Mexico and the United States.
Back in 2018, Mexico’s election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador was in hopes of bringing some end to the violence that journalists faced in Mexico.
“One of the things we really hoped was that the environment for journalism, the environment for freedom of speech would change,” Grecko said. “The sad thing is the statistics remained the same or got worse.”
In 2020, five journalists were killed in Mexico, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists website. A total of 14 journalists were killed from 2018 to 2020 which, according to Grecko, leaves Mexico the country with the most journalists killed in 2020.
“If you want to kill a journalist, most likely you’ll get away with it,” Grecko said. “And this is the very root of impunity.”
Grecko said his book and film were inspired by Moisés Sánchez Cerezo, a self-made journalist, who was kidnapped by Mexican police officers from his home and murdered, according to The Guardian.
“It was a tragedy,” Grekco said. “To me, he was kind of a master, someone I had to learn from and it was a pity that I didn’t get to know him when he was alive, and so I realized that I needed to keep working on this.”
Grecko said that Jorge, Moisés’ son, has his own ideas about journalism and is working to continue his father’s work.
“I admire people like [Jorge] who refuse to let themselves be smashed by the power, smashed by bigger structures, and the bravery to come forward and fight and there are many ways to fight. I think that journalism is one of them,” Grecko said.
To conclude the webinar, Dr. Deanda-Camacho asked a series of questions pertaining to the concept of freedom of speech in both Mexico and the United States and the growing concept of fake news.
Grecko said that “freedom of speech is so relative.” Since he is a freelance journalist, he can write about “whatever he wants,” but it all boils down to being able to sell those articles to news outlets. “So, [freelance work] somehow has a price on my freedom of speech,” he said.