A letter from Elena Poniatowska
Elena Poniatowska is one of Mexico's most famous authors and commentators. Here we reproduce a letter to PEN/Opp about the role PEN's campaigns actually play in today's Mexico.
In Mexico, to tell truth is to imperil your life. Every reporter – all the young men and women who comprise the infantry of a newspaper, should ask themselves: Are you prepared to die? In the northern cities of the republic, journalists are hunted like rabbits, and no one has so far protected them.
All the armed forces are corrupt.
The ‘official’ numbers are high; some say that 74 journalists died between 2000 and 2011. Others put the number at 83 and others again at 80. On 30 May 1984, Manual Buendía was assassinated in Mexico City because his newspaper column, entitled Red Privada and syndicated in 60 Mexican newspapers, aired issues such as drug trafficking and government corruption. He was the first murdered columnist I knew personally. I have since repeatedly asked myself: When will practising the profession of journalism no longer carry a death sentence? How long will we have to wait before the authorities provide effective guarantees to protect the lives of people in our profession? How long will it be before we cease to be the most dangerous country for journalists in Latin America? Since 1960, the Writers in Prison Committee has defended 900 cases of writers who have been tortured, defamed and imprisoned. We are therefore delighted to receive the writer John Ralston Saul, president of Pen Club International. His presence is helping not to lose sight of ourselves and our aspirations. Because ultimately, writing is our freedom.
(This text was first published in PEN International's anthology Write against impunity)