“This will happen to all the Internet snitches,” a banner above the hanging bodies of a young man and woman read. “Be warned, we’ve got our eye on you.”
As the Washington Post’s William Booth reports, the two residents were found strung by their arms and legs from a pedestrian overpass on Tuesday morning, just across the Texas border in the industrial city of Nuevo Laredo. Their bodies showed signs of torture. The woman was disembowled.
The banner, which was signed “Z,” made clear that the people behind the crime were likely the Zetas — one of Mexico’s biggest and most violent drug cartels. The victims’ offense? Saying too much about the Zetas online.
WARNING: Graphic imagery below.
The banner named two blogs it wanted to send a message to — both of them sites where users could post anonymous messages about instances of drug violence.
One was a web forum called Frontera al Rojo Vivo (“Red Hot Border”) owned by the Grupo Reforma media company, which is now closed, and the other was a popular news blog called El blog del Narco (“the Tipster Blog”.) The cartel also mentioned the tip line of the Attorney General of Mexico.
“The criminal gangs exert control over the press,” Carlos Lauria of the Committee to Protect Journalists told The Post. “The media stops. And in the absence of news, ordinary citizens turn to Twitter and Facebook to fill the void.”
Americas Quarterly reports that Mexican civilians have recently taken to reporting dangerous areas occupied by drug cartels along the country’s highways in real-time using Twitter.
But Wired points out that this kind of reporting also comes with risk — last month, rumors about gang attacks in the city of Veracuz spread on Twitter led to panic and the arrest of two people accused of “terrorism and sabotage.”
Drug cartels have always targeted reporters — more than 40 journalists have been killed in Mexico since 2004, according to the Post.
But if they are now specifically targeting those who write online, as well, the Wired writes, “a war against media... has turned even more dangerous.”
Watch CNN’s report on the hangings: