For the Day of the Imprisoned Writer 2019, Ricky Monahan Brown has written a letter of solidarity to at-risk Mexican journalist, Lydia CachoNovember 15, 2019
Lydia Cacho has worked as a journalist for over 30 years, serving as editor, presenter, and columnist for various national and international media outlets. She is the co-founder of the Network of Journalists from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.
Following the publication of her first book on child pornography in Mexico, The Demons of Eden: the Power Behind Pornography, Cacho was illegally arrested, detained and ill-treated before being subjected to a year-long criminal defamation lawsuit. She was cleared of all charges.
In 2011, Lydia Cacho reportedly received anonymous death threats by telephone and email, which made direct reference to her journalism and she believes that they were made in retaliation for her revelation of the names of alleged traffickers of women and girls.
In July 2019, unidentified individuals broke into her home and stole journalistic material related to numerous sexual abuse cases Lydia was investigating. The individuals also killed her two dogs. It is reported that Lydia has left Mexico due to threats against her.
For the Day of the Imprisoned Writer 2019, Writer, poet, spoken word artist and co-chair of the Scottish PEN Writers at Risk Committee, Ricky Monahan Brown, has written a letter of solidarity to Lydia Cacho.
How are you? I suppose that’s the most important question, isn’t it? How are you? I will be sharing this letter at an event attended by other writers, members of Scottish PEN and members of the Scottish Parliament, among others, to mark the Day of the Imprisoned Writer as we look to raise awareness of writers at risk around the world.
As is the case at many of our events, we will be joined by Scottish PEN’s Empty Chair representing a writer or writers who cannot be present due to persecution because of their work. Your name, of course, features on the chair as one of the writers for whom we have campaigned in light of your journalism and bravery and what you have suffered for telling the world about how things are in Mexico. How the people are, how the children are. How the outspoken students and the writers and the journalists are. How the corrupt politicians and the sex traffickers are. Now, thanks to you and other reporters in Mexico, those of us who will be thinking of you and other writers at risk know more of the truth about organised crime and its links to politicians in Mexico.
Now, thanks to you and other reporters in Mexico, those of us who will be thinking of you and other writers at risk know more of the truth about organised crime and its links to politicians in Mexico.
Because, that’s what writers do so much of the time, isn’t it? Journalists, poets, writers of fiction and non-fiction, writing about how things are, and the extremes of human existence and people living subject to extreme conditions – even when the evil to which they might be subjected is, as Hannah Arendt might have observed, banal. When it is inspired by people doing what they are told, or trying to achieve professional advancement. It is these writings that might inspire us to try to find empathy for our fellow person, and to take action. That might inspire us as writers to tell the truth with an unflinching eye. For in another world, we might be that other person, and they might be us.
So, yes. How are you? I can hardly begin to imagine. I have read of the break-in at your home in July, and the theft of your laptop, audio recorder, cameras, and the records of your investigations. Also, the murder of your dogs and the damage caused to your personal possessions. I am so sorry. I have read, too, of the reports that you have had to leave Mexico due to threats made against you. I am reminded of what was once said of Highlanders here in Scotland – that the greatest hardship for a Highlander is to be obliged to quit the spot where he drew his first breath and to know he will never return. How much worse must that hardship be when you have had to leave your homeland because you are doing such important work for your countryfolk!
I am reminded of what was once said of Highlanders here in Scotland – that the greatest hardship for a Highlander is to be obliged to quit the spot where he drew his first breath and to know he will never return.
We are aware of the ongoing killings of journalists during the incumbency of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, including, by some counts, twelve this year. We are aware, too, of the tens of thousands of murder victims you have written about in Mexico’s drug war. We are also aware of the ongoing attempts by the President and public officials to discredit Mexico’s journalists, and how this puts freedom of expression, opinion and information at risk. The members of Scottish PEN join with members of PEN International and centres around the world in urging the Mexican state to strengthen protections for freedom of expression in the country, protect its journalists and to break the cycle of impunity that surrounds the perpetrators of such violence.
As I write this letter, I am revisiting your article, I Don’t Want to Lose my Head. I am reading once again of how your pen is your lance, your tool; of how your notebook is your port in a storm; of your desire to write to record that life counts. I read once again of your fear and your bravery, and I am reminded once again that I can’t begin to imagine how you are. Nevertheless, I am grateful that you have written your words to tell us more of how things are in Mexico. I read once again your words when you write, I am not alone as long as I can reveal those dreams or pressures, nightmares or ideas, and the words of others.
I hope that you are as well as could be hoped, Lydia. We here are better for the existence of your work and that of your colleagues. I hope that as we mark the Day of the Imprisoned Writer, and remember writers at risk in Mexico and around the world, that you do not feel alone.
Sending the very best of thoughts to you, Lydia,
Ricky Monahan Brown
Ricky Monahan Brown is the author of the memoir Stroke: A 5% chance of survival from Sandstone Press. His short fiction and poetry have also been widely published in journals, newspapers and magazines. Ricky is a member of the Board of Trustees of Scottish PEN. He is the co-founder and curator of the multiple award-winning irregular night of live spoken word and musical entertainment, Interrobang?! which has served as a vehicle to facilitate one of the strands of Scottish PEN’s Many Voices project and has supported Scottish PEN’s work in opposing pervasive surveillance.