On Friday, my colleague Brad Will of the NYC Indymedia was shot and killed by government backed paramilitaries in Oaxaca, Mexico. For the last five months, Oaxaca has been the scene of an escalating confrontation between the Oaxaca Teachers Union, under their umbrella organization the APPO, and the state government led by the corrupt PRI functionary state governor Ulises Ruiz . Today, the endgame in Oaxaca looked ready to begin as the Federal government of Vincente Fox, which until now had sat out the conflict, looked to use Will's death as an excuse to break the protests for good.
There's a sickening irony to that, because Brad was in full support of the APPO and the people of Oaxaca, and had gone down there as a journalist and human rights activists specifically to document their struggle against Ruiz. Part of me can't help wondering if Brad was deliberately targeted by the paramilitaries to get Western journalists out of the way.
Here's an email I sent to a bunch of the people about the situation:
"Brad was a friend and colleague of mine. He was a true citizen journalist. He did more than sit behind a laptop all day and pontificate about what he thought the news meant. He wasn't an "official" member of any news organization, but he took his video camera and his notebook and traveled all over Latin America, providing passionate reporting about events and places few Americans knew (or cared) much about. In the past five years, he has committed more acts of journalism than many paid, "professional" journalists. He was killed today, as a journalist.
We'll all miss him in NYC very much.
A number of people and professors in my doctoral program and in the NORG's group have sent emails of sympathy; thanks so much to all of them for the kind words. The Houston Chronicle had a great story on this that quoted Jay Rosen, and Jeff Jarvis has a nice post on this too.
Brad's death shows us the importance of journalism-- no matter who does it-- as an important tool of social justice and witness. Brad: !Presente!