Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Top women journalists blast Mexican media

(Carmen Aristegui left, Lydia Cacho and Sanjuana Martínez at the International Journalism Conference in Guadalajara, photo by José María Martínez Burgos)

Three impressive women journalists unloaded on the Mexican media at a journalists´ conference in Guadalajara.

I had heard a lot about Carmen Aristegui, CNN correspondent for Latin America, and I had seen her on TV. I was even more impressed with her in person as she dissected the monopoly practices in Mexican television.

Lydia Cacho has gained fame worldwide for exposing pederasty rings, including one involving a prominent businessman who was protected by the complaisant governor of the state of Puebla.

And Sanjuana Martínez is the investigative journalist from the magazine Proceso who lost her job for pressing an investigation into the sexual predations of Catholic priests on young people.

The Televisa Law
Aristegui pointed out that the Televisa and Azteca networks, whose dominance of the airwaves was strengthened by a 2006 law passed under questionable circumstances, has robbed Mexicans of alternative sources and interpretations of the news.

These two networks own a 90 percent share of the Mexican TV audience and 90 percent of TV revenues. The law that protects this duopoly was rushed through the Mexican Congress with little scrutiny.

You can read her remarks in Spanish in La Jornada de Jalisco:

The elegance of self-censorship

Self-censorship is much more efficient and much more elegant than censorship, she said. Censorship is crude. Media bosses prefer to create an environment where self-censorship is the rule.

It´s convenient for journalists to censor themselves to avoid confronting the medium´s owner or the owner´s friends, or to avoid ruffling feathers.

The newspaper Informador also covered the event. It quoted Sanjuana Martínez as saying that self-censorship is a daily occurrence in Mexican newsrooms to avoid making various powers that be uncomfortable.

“Journalists have to ask the questions that the public wants answered, since those who don´t live up to their commitment to society are betraying the public´s right to be informed.“

The three journalists agreed that Mexican media have an unwritten code of not criticizing each other, which makes it easier for media owners to kill relevant stories and not worry about negative consequences.

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