On Monday, in a conference room named for a New York Times correspondent killed in World War II, reporters and filmmakers gathered to discuss a very different kind of war: The violence, against civilians and reporters alike, in Mexico’s “drug war.”  Bernardo Ruiz, director of POV’s Reportero, and Nick Valencia, National Editor and Correspondent for CNN Weekend Newsroom, discussed with the Times’ Deputy Foreign Editor, Marc Lacey, the issues Ruiz raises in his film, which aired on POV earlier this month.

The event was co-sponsored by POV, the VOCES Latino Heritage Network of The New York Times Company and the National Association for Hispanic Journalists.

Selling issues of Zeta, the newsweekly profiled in Reportero, directed by Bernardo Ruiz.

Following select clips from the film and a CNN report by Nick Valencia on the violence, the panel discussed the intractability of the situation, the role of reporters in exposing the violence and systemic injustice, and whether it was worth the risk to reporters’ lives to cover it if doing so has had so little effect thus far.

When asked if he saw any solutions to ending the drug-related violence, Ruiz raised the idea of drug legalization, to reduce the power of the cartels, an idea he and Marc Lacey said was gaining traction both in the United States and in Mexico.

CNN’s Nick Valenica, Reportero director Bernardo Ruiz and New Times Deputy Foreign Editor Marc Lacey discuss Reportero at The New York Times, Jan 28, 2013.

Responding to audience comments on the lack of in-depth coverage on Mexico, and the insistence of mainstream media on “body-count” coverage of the violence in Mexico, Ruiz suggested journalists report on the economics of the drug cartels, and how the money flows back and forth between the United States and Mexico.

Of the more than 50 journalists killed in Mexico since 2006, the panel noted fewer than 10 of the cases have been investigated by the Mexican government.

Representatives of the Committee to Project Journalists were also among the audience members and said their organization offers immediate assistance to journalists who are threatened, including operating safe houses, and helping journalists to get out of dangerous areas, or out of the country entirely. CPJ’s Carlos Lauria, who was in attendance, wrote an op-ed about “Mexico’s freedom of expression crisis” recently in the Miami Herald.

Ruiz said that ultimately it’s not the job of reporters or filmmakers to necessarily solve problems, but rather to “put the issues on the table” for society and leaders to grapple with and debate.

You can watch Reportero online free until February 6, 2013. (Stay tuned to POV’s blog in the next day for a special announcement about streaming.)

What’s your POV on drug violence in Mexico? Are there long-term solutions to the problem?  Comment below.

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POV Staff
POV (a cinema term for "point of view") is television's longest-running showcase for independent non-fiction films. POV premieres 14-16 of the best, boldest and most innovative programs every year on PBS. Since 1988, POV has presented over 400 films to public television audiences across the country. POV films are known for their intimacy, their unforgettable storytelling and their timeliness, putting a human face on contemporary social issues.