“Mr. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, I am Javier Valdez, journalist and writer. On May 15, 2017, I was assassinated on the orders of someone who did not like what I published. But here I am, as you see me, speaking to you.”
The journalist expert in drug trafficking Javier Valdez, murdered in the Mexican state of Sinaloa
With these words begins a video released by Propuesta Cívica – a Mexican organization that provides support to journalists at risk and their families – that recreates the image and voice of Javier Valdez, reporter, through artificial intelligence. drug trafficking expert who was killed more than three years ago after being shot several times in the street, near the offices of his weekly, Rio Doce, in the state of Sinaloa.
The entity launched the #SeguimosHablando campaign this Thursday to demand that the Mexican president and the governors of the states “put a stop to the violence against the press and that there be justice for their crime and that of hundreds of journalists” murdered and disappeared. “Even after they are murdered or disappeared, they will continue to speak, they have been able with their body, but not with their voice. They will not be able to silence them,” says the campaign.
“I am not afraid, Mr. President, because they cannot kill me twice,” says Valdez’s recreation. “That is why I come to speak for the hundreds of journalists murdered, disappeared and displaced for carrying out ethical investigative journalism, which exposed the bowels of corrupt power and organized crime in Mexico, the product of the indifference, if not complicity, of various governors and state and federal officials. ”
To recreate the image of Valdez, whose murder shocked the country, Deepfake software has been used, an artificial intelligence technique based on synthesizing the human image by combining and superimposing images created by computer, using artificial intelligence technology and applied to existing videos, as explained to elDiario.es by sources from Publicis Agencies, responsible for their creation. The video has been made from an interview with the deceased journalist.
The end result of the Deepfake technique is generally a completely fake video, but in many cases, realistic, something that has raised concern because it can be misleading and to present as facts something that is pure fiction, but also allows uses that do not seek deception but awareness or social impact, as is this case, in one of the most deadly countries for journalists.
Propuesta Cívica has launched the video within the framework of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, which is celebrated on November 2. Already in 2019, the #SeguimosHablando campaign reactivated the Twitter accounts of four journalists murdered in Mexico, “who for a week wrote again about those topics that allegedly caused their murder,” the organization explains. The campaign was a trending topic in Mexico and obtained international awards and mentions.
The entity indicates that, “like the first edition,” the campaign “has the approval and supervision of family members,” whom it has legally represented since 2017. During the planning of the campaign, they explain that Valdez’s widow, Griselda Triana, “has provided personal details such as the journalist’s hats and has contributed to the writing of the script, in order to recreate her husband with precision.”
“Even if they want to shut us up, we keep talking.”
“I do not come here to ask you for a favor, Mr. President. I come to demand that you fulfill your obligation. Until my crime and those of my companions are clarified, neither we nor our families will have peace,” says Javier’s recreation Valdez.
On September 29, the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Crimes committed against Freedom of Expression (Feadle) of Mexico requested a 50-year prison sentence for one of the accused for his murder in a hearing held after 20 months of delay , EFE reports. Last February, one of Valdez’s killers was sentenced to 14 years and eight months in prison after confessing to having participated in the crime.
According to data from the specialized entity, 90% of the murders of journalists in Mexico remain unpunished. According to their figures, 126 reporters have been assassinated since the beginning of the presidential term of former president Felipe Calderón in 2006. 30, under the mandate of Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Since then, 14 journalism professionals have also disappeared.
According to Reporters Without Borders, only during 2020 have they been five journalists murdered, which makes Mexico “the second most dangerous country in the world for the press,” behind Iraq. Mexico ranks 143rd out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Classification 2020 published by RSF.
Propuesta Cívica has drawn up a decalogue with “urgent measures that must be put in place” for the protection and search for justice for relatives of journalists murdered and disappeared in the country.
In the video, the recreation of Valdez addresses López Obrador and asks: “Could it be that his government of transformation will have the political will to clarify these crimes and punish those truly responsible?” “Today you have the opportunity to differentiate yourself from your predecessors and make a real change, to give us justice. A country without truth is a country without democracy. Even if they want to shut us up, we keep talking.”