Deutsche Welle 2.19.2019
A daring journalist who has spent her career reporting on drug cartels and corruption in Mexico, Anabel Hernández is the fifth person — and first woman — to receive the Deutsche Welle Freedom of Speech Award.
Born in Mexico, Anabel Hernández began her career in journalism in 1993, working for the newspaper Reforma while still a student in university. In the decades that followed, Hernandez has made a name for herself as one of Mexico’s leading investigative journalists, publishing stories of government corruption, sexual exploitation and drug trafficking.
That groundbreaking reporting, which includes two books investigating the interconnections between Mexican government officials at all levels and the leading drug cartels in the country, has come with a price. Hernández currently lives in exile, having fled Mexico after credible death threats directed at her and her children.
“During this dramatic period in Mexico’s history, silence is killing men, women and children, ordinary members of civil society, it is killing human rights defenders, it is killing government officials, and it is killing journalists,” she said when accepting the Golden Pen of Freedom Award in 2012.
“But breaking the silence can also be deadly,” she added.
Hernández has intimate knowledge of the dangers that citizens in Mexico face as a result of the country’s criminality. Her father, who initially discouraged her ambitions of becoming a journalist, was murdered in Mexico City in 2000. His killing remains unsolved as her family refused to pay the officials who were tasked with the investigation. Hernández said that his murder is what drives her work.
After five years of research, Hernández published the book Los Señores del Narco in 2010 (released in English in 2013 under the title, Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords And Their Godfathers). The book thoroughly explores those behind the drug cartels. It shows how utterly interwoven the “narco system” is into the fabric of everyday life in Mexico and the complicity of politicians, the military and businessmen in the drug trade.
“Between them all, they have turned Mexico into a graveyard,” she wrote.
The detailed accounting of corruption was a best-seller upon its release in Mexico. It also earned Hernandez numerous death threats. She was later assigned bodyguards for around-the-clock protection.
“After I published Los Señores del Narco in Spanish — now Narcoland in English — I received death threats. Last June, someone left decapitated animals in front of my house,” Hernández told The Nation magazine in October 2013. “It’s sad to say, but I didn’t receive the threats from the drug cartels. I received the threats from the federal government, from the most powerful chief of police in Mexico.”