“Hold your tongues!” a note left on his car read. It was an order to keep their mouths shut or to leave. Rafael Pineda, with the pseudonym Rapé, the owner of the car, has been a caricaturist in Mexico for 23 years. He comes from the state of Veracruz where, as a young man, he established a group of independent and critical journalists. The group caught people’s attention with their research and reports on corrupt structures, human rights violations, drug trafficking and violence. Not many journalists in the state of Veracruz, notorious for its violence, dared to stick their necks out so far. “We were on our own,” Pineda says. And they rubbed people up the wrong way. Rafael found the note on his car in early 2012. He took the threat seriously and, like most of the members of the journalist group, left Veracruz and moved to Mexico City. Yet one of them stayed: Regina Martínez Pérez. On 28 April 2012, the critical journalist was brutally murdered in her home in Xalapa. The circumstances have still not been fully investigated in the eyes of many observers.
The Walter Reuter Prize for outstanding journalism
Rafael Pineda told this story upon receiving the Walter Reuter Prize in Mexico City. The prize was presented for the 12th time at the end of November to nine Mexican journalists. With the prize, Germany is helping to promote freedom of the press and quality journalism in Mexico. The prize is awarded by the German Embassy, the Goethe-Institut, German political foundations, the German-Mexican Chamber of Commerce and Deutsche Welle. The jury usually consists of Mexican journalists.
Mexico is a difficult environment for journalists. According to Reporters Without Borders, since 2000 more than 80 media professionals have been murdered in Mexico, more than ten since the beginning of the year. The country ranks 147th out of 180 on the World Press Freedom Index.
Elections as an acid test
This year, contributions were submitted under the heading: “Elections 2018: an acid test for Mexican democracy?” The contributions handed in analysed the Mexican elections in July this year from a wide range of perspectives, and prizes were awarded in three categories: print media, radio and television, and photography and caricature. Some items describe the brutal violence that accompanied this electoral process, as it did previous ones. Others paint portraits of symbolic individuals in these elections, such as a candidate who is an ex-gang member, or the elected President López Obrador. After fleeing from Veracruz, Rafael Pineda founded the internet channel Chamuco TV in Mexico together with his colleagues El Fisgón, Hernández, Helguera and Patricio. This channel subjects Mexico’s politics to highly critical scrutiny in reports and interviews, using political caricature and parody. He sees the award for their election reporting as an opportunity: “We are very grateful for this appreciation of our work. It will help us to grow and receive even more recognition. We just want to uncover the truth about what is really happening in this country.” Rafael Pineda has not allowed himself to be deterred by the difficult circumstances in which he works. He continues to write, draw and broadcast. He will never forget the note on his car. But he will not do as it says.