Adela Navarro Bello, whose work means daily defiance of the country’s drug cartels, has received the 2011 Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women’s Media Foundation.
The 43-year-old Mexican journalist—who serves as the general director of Zeta newsmagazine in Tijuana—refuses to stop writing about Mexico’s raging violence despite the fact that ruthless drug cartels have murdered her editors and repeatedly threatened to kill her. Founded in 1980, Zeta is one of only a few publications that frequently reports on organized crime, drug trafficking, and corruption in Mexico’s border cities.
“In my country, it is possible to kill a reporter and nothing will happen to you,” declares Navarro Bello, who knows that truth all too well.
Zeta’s co-founder, Hector Felix Miranda, was murdered in 1988 in retaliation for covering the drug war. In 2004, co-editor Francisco Ortiz Franco was killed in front of his two children.
While cartels have silenced many Mexican journalists, Navarro Bello refuses to stop covering the drug wars despite repeated death threats.
“I don’t understand self-censorship in Mexico. I don’t understand why reporters are afraid. If you’re not reporting on what is happening you are an accomplice to these people,” states Navarro Bello, whose 60-person staff is 60 percent women. “We have the right to freedom of speech in a democratic country like Mexico.”
Seven soldiers were assigned to guard Navarro Bello around the clock when one cartel threatened to kill her last January. Thirteen months later, police arrested 10 people who were plotting to plant grenades to blow up the Zeta offices.
But that hasn’t stopped Navarro Bello from continuing her work.
“I’ve been poisoned with the truth. I can’t stop,” says Navarro Bello. “We aren’t afraid to write about the drug cartels and run the names of people who are hurting our society. We tell the police who they are. That’s the kind of journalism we do. We go everywhere and cover everything. We won’t remain silent.”
This isn’t Navarro Bello’s first award for her bravery.
In 2007, the Committee to Protect Journalists presented Navarro Bello with an International Press Freedom Award, given for journalists who show courage in defending press freedom in the face of attacks, threats or imprisonment.