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How Mexico's drug war also prevents positive news from being reported

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A new United Nations (UN) and Organization of American States (OAS) report calls Mexico the world’s fifth most dangerous environment for journalists and the worst for media workers in North America.

The report tallies 13 media workers killed this year alone, bringing the total to 70 killed since 2000.

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Much of the threat faced by journalists is attributed to organized crime, amid an atmosphere were gunmen hurl grenades at broadcaster offices and murder reporters and editors who dare write about their exploits.

The impact this has had on the news is well-known: in many small towns in Mexico, and many larger ones as well, residents complain of a news blackout. Many resort to Twitter and Facebook for their news – causing all kinds of new challenges.

But it is not just crime that goes uncovered, and that might be one of the saddest stories of the drug war in Mexico.

I was recently to accompany Walmart on a visit to an indigenous community in the mountains of the state of Guerrero, where the company is helping small-time organic honey producers bring their product to the national market.

I had decided to take advantage of the trip and do a profile of human rights workers as well, one of whom, Abel Barrera, recently won the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. On the RFK Center for Justice & Human Rights webpage, they describe the area as such: “Perhaps Guerrero is Mexico’s Alabama, and the town of Ayutla its Birmingham – the center of a profound struggle.”

Great stories, right?

But Guerrero happens to be in the midst of a deadly conflict among drug gangs – it’s seen one of Mexico's worst murder spikes this year and the federal government recently had to call in the troops. And because of the climate of insecurity, Walmart canceled the trip, I decided it was not worth the risk to go to this remote region alone, and English readers missed out on arguably two really great things happening in Mexico.

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So death threats to crime reporters have wider repercussions than just what we read on the crime pages in the local press.

The threats might be indirect, but they also cause a blackout of "good news."