“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, talking to you.”
This was the message from murdered journalist Javier Valdez from the afterlife with the help of artificial intelligence. Valdez was a murdered reporter that covered drug trafficking. He was shot in the street three years ago very close to the paper where he worked, Rio Doce, in the state of Sinaloa.
The architects of the “resurrection” that has sent many shivers and impressed others are the Mexican organization, Propuesta Cívica, which supports threatened journalists and their families in a country where speaking out about certain subjects puts a target on your head.
Yesterday, Propuesta Cívica presented the campaign, #SeguimosHablando, to demand that President López Obrador and state governors “put a stop to violence against the press and that there be justice for their crime and that of hundreds of journalists,” the campaign says. “Even after they have been killed or disappeared, they will continue to speak out, they have been able to overpower his body, but not his voice. They will not succeed in silencing them.”
Valdez shows himself in the reenactment as forceful as he was in life, appealing directly to López Obrador:
“I am not afraid, Mr. President, because they cannot kill me twice. That is why I come to speak for the hundreds of journalists who have been murdered, disappeared and displaced because of their ethical investigative journalism, which stripped the entrails of corrupt power and organized crime in Mexico, a product of the indifference, not to say complicity, of various governors and state and federal officials.”
AI in the service of freedom
The murder of Valdez, in 2017 is still very much alive in the memory of the country. To recreate his image, the organization used Deepfake software, an AI technique based on synthesizing the human image by superimposing computer-generated images, as explained to Diario.es. Agencias Publicis carried out the project based on an old interview with Valdez.
The images, although false, are so convincing that a debate has been opened about the use that this type of technique may have in the future, especially in an era marked by the post-truth and fake news.
There is no doubt, however, that the ends sometimes justify the means, especially when it comes to denouncing violence in a country where 90% of the murders of journalists go unpunished.
According to data from Propuesta Cívica, 126 reporters died during Felipe Calderón’s six-year term that started in 2006, and some 30 have died under AMLO’s mandate. There are also 14 journalists who have disappeared.
“I am not afraid, Mr. President, because they cannot kill me twice.”
In addition, five journalists have been murdered this year, according to Reporters Without Borders. A figure that, added to the previous ones, makes Mexico “the second most dangerous country in the world for the press,” after Iraq.
The organization has released the video on the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, to be celebrated on Nov. 2. Last year, the campaign of Propuesta Cívica reactivated the Twitter accounts of four murdered journalists in Mexico, “who for a week wrote again about those issues that allegedly caused their murder,” explained the group.
“I’m not here to ask you for a favor, Mr. President. I’m here to demand that you fulfill your obligation. Until my crime and those of my colleagues are cleared up, neither we nor our families will have peace,” Valdez concludes in the reenactment.