Alejandra Ibarra Chaoul is the founder and director of Defensores de la Democracia, or DDLD, a digital archive that aggregates and preserves the work of journalists killed in Mexico.

What’s the biggest challenge of documenting and archiving the work of murdered journalists? 

There’s this common misconception that journalists in Mexico get killed because they were about to publish a smoking gun of evidence. What we found is that journalists most at risk are the ones reporting very day-to-day, local news. Many published through blogs, personal websites, and their social media accounts — independent work that remained unarchived or unprotected when they died. A murdered journalist’s website domain goes up for sale because it hasn’t been paid for, and so their entire body of work disappears. Sometimes we find journalists who worked at community radio stations or small local newspapers, whose work is hard to find or rescue, so we have to reach out to their families directly.

Is there any collaboration you do with the platforms where some of these journalists used to post their work?

We don’t but we would love to, especially with Facebook. A lot of journalists publish directly on their Facebook profiles to not advertise what they’ve written somewhere else. There’s at least one case of a reporter’s work disappearing completely since someone started flagging their content as sensitive and it was deleted. We would love to start a conversation with Facebook about that because the deleted content is probably on their servers. We would like to rescue it and raise awareness that a lot of local journalists in Mexico publish on Facebook. 

How often do you find cases of murdered journalists who experimented with new digital formats, and how hard is it to document them?

It’s a huge challenge. Some journalists are moving from print newsletters to distributing them over WhatsApp. It’s hard to build a repository of that, and to track all the kinds of work local journalists are publishing when they’re alive. The notoriety a journalist gets when they get killed makes it easier to find what they were publishing. But we really haven’t found anyone doing something super tech-savvy because journalists who are usually targeted are local reporters who might not have an audience on TikTok or Substack, but they do find their audience on Facebook or in print.