Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 19).
On Friday, February 4th, Carmen Aristegui (renowned Mexican journalist) demanded in a radio broadcast that the Mexican government release an official position regarding president Calderón alleged alcoholism. She was referring to a placard displayed by the opposition lawmakers in the Congress that said: “Would you let a drunk drive your car? No, right? So why are you letting one run the country?”
The next Monday, the journalist was fired from the broadcasting company MVS, due to the uncomfortable demands she had issued. MVS stated Aristegui violated the corporate ethical code by commenting on a “rumour”. Aristegui was removed from the airwaves and little or none remarks were made about the incident on the mainstream media.
Social networks however, were flooded since then with comments about the incident. Aristegui’s audience is outraged by what they’ve called a violation against the freedom of speech which can only be seen in a dictatorship.
On Wednesday, February 9th, Aristegui held a press conference to talk about her dismissal. She made clear MVS tried to make her read a letter on-air, apologising for the comments on president’s suspected drinking problems. She stated the attempt was made by MVS as a response to direct pressure from the president’s office.
She also implied MVS’ decisions are compromised because of the renewal of the concession that allow them to use the airwaves, which inexplicably hasn’t come through, even though all legal and administrative requirements have been met.
Aristegui said she is willing to take her position back effective next Monday if MVS agrees to retire the radio spot where they state she violated the ethical code.
This unfortunate chain of events reveals the situation Mexico lives regarding the fundamental right of freedom speech, not only by means of a journalist’s dismissal for demanding an official position from the government, but by means of the silence on the matter by most of the mainstream media. It seems the government is conspicuously trying to keep Mexican people in the dark about this and many other relevant topics.
Not only Aristegui has been prevented from executing journalism (her free choice of employment) but she has been punished for expressing her opinion… and maybe not even that! She has been punished for demanding an official position on an important matter.
The ball is now on MVS’s court. They have a chance to clean their name and reinstate Carmen Aristegui in her position, or they can be accomplices of the government in a barefaced and outrageous violation to fundamental rights which can be thought of as an exemplary punishment for all those who might want to hold opinions and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas.
We’ll be watching.
February 9th, 2011.
If you’d like to know why journalism in Mexico is a dangerous business, click here!