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State Council for Safety Calls for Changes to Government, Police, and Media

Consejo

Laura Torres Septien

By Jesús Aguado

Restructuring police forces; more institutional transparency at the federal, state, and local government level; and the cooperation of the media when covering violent crime were at the heart of overarching but as yet unspecific proposals the State Council for Safety discussed at its meeting on May 24 in León.

The State Council for Safety is chaired by Guanajuato governor Diego Sinhue Rodríguez. The legislation that created this council also mandated the creation of local safety councils in each of Guanajuato’s municipalities that work in concert with the state council. Both the state and the local councils are made up of a combination of public officials and citizen councilors.

As part of the proposal for tackling safety issues, citizen counselor José Arturo Sánchez Castellanos exhorted the mass media to not be “spokespersons” for criminal groups by using their names in articles and thus feeding their notoriety.

“We want to propose a pact among civil organized society, the government, and the mass media,” he said, “a pact that can help us to create an ethical protocol for media coverage of violence so that the information that is published is true and objective and doesn’t publicize criminals whose egos are fed by people’s fear.”

In a conversation with Atención, San Miguel’s Tourism Council President Laura Torres, a member of the State Council for Safety, said the current proposal that came out of the meeting is just a draft and that council members still need to strategize to make it a reality. But she did say that the draft is a message to the public to discourage the distribution of fabricated news or news stories with incomplete information, especially in outlets like social media. She raised concerns that such fearmongering damages the economic engine of San Miguel. “If there is no tourism, there is no economy,” she said.

However, this doesn’t mean that the Tourism Council wants to see information covered up, she added. “We cannot do that, but we can issue a call to authorities to publicize crime information in a timely and complete manner.”

According to Torres, the State Council for Safety and the Tourist Council want to meet with representatives from area media outlets to come to an agreement about staying away from untruthful news stories or ones with incomplete information.

“If a news story contains a lie or is not complete in its information—if the entire truth is not there—we cannot stop it from going viral, even if we provide the correct info,” Torres said.

As an example, she brought up the issue of car robberies that became infamous in the last year for happening repeatedly on the road between San Miguel and Querétaro. There was much talk about the crimes on social media at the time.

“Now, even though those criminals were caught, people from other cities still believe that the road is not safe; but it is,” she said.

The Security Council will meet soon to work on a security strategy she added.

“We do not want to stop the information from flowing,” she said. “All we want is true, complete, and timely information to be disseminated.”

BOX

In San Miguel, most of the incomplete information that is shared on social media and contributes to public paranoia involves crimes of high impact, mainly murders.

The data from the National System of Public Safety states that between January and April, San Miguel has recorded 29 murders—25 caused by a firearm, and 4 with other weapons.

However numbers from sites that cover murders, like Las Noticias con Pavel Cervantes, have tracked 50 murders as of May 28.

 

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