Mexico City, Apr 20 (efe-epa).- Mexico’s president said Monday that the country’s No. 2 television network should not be sanctioned over remarks by a news anchor, who last week urged citizens to ignore the Covid-19 figures and mitigation advice provided by the deputy health secretary.
“My recommendation is that there should be no sanction,” Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said at his daily press conference at the National Palace, adding that freedom of speech rights should prevail even in cases where a person goes too far with a remark or acts irresponsibly.
The federal government issued a warning to TV Azteca on Saturday after prime-time news anchor Javier Alatorre said the day before that viewers should not pay attention to Hugo Lopez-Gatell, the official overseeing the response to the pandemic in Mexico, which has 8,261 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and 686 Covid-19-related deaths, according to official figures.
Lopez Obrador said the Government Secretariat (interior ministry) put the television network on notice “in compliance with its duty” but that he does not recommend that any sanction be handed down.
“Let’s continue to pay heed to the specialists, the doctors and scientists. Hugo Lopez-Gatell is a first-class specialist who is also backed by a group of scientists,” the president said.
The center-left leader said the Mexican people are “very cognizant” of the situation and that remarks by people like Alatorre do not have that much of an impact.
He also hailed the power of social media, a platform that he used effectively as an opposition leader and which facilitated his rise to the presidency in 2018.
“A newscaster from conventional media says something, and on Twitter or Facebook there are hundreds of thousands of communicators who reply,” Lopez Obrador said in reference to the flood of support that Lopez-Gatell received in the wake of the TV Azteca anchor’s remarks.
Alatorre said on his Friday program that the government’s official statistics on the pandemic are incorrect and urged people not to listen to the advice of the country’s coronavirus czar.
“His figures and press conferences have now become irrelevant … Don’t pay attention to Hugo Lopez-Gatell,” the TV presenter said.
Lopez Obrador, who was interviewed at his home by Alatorre during the 2018 election campaign and has a good relationship with the news anchor, jumped to the defense of his deputy health secretary hours later.
“(The news anchor) was wrong … I think it was a poorly thought out stance because Javier (Alatorre) is a good person. I think he made a mistake,” the head of state said in a video message on Saturday.
TV Azteca owner Ricardo Salinas Pliego is Mexico’s second-wealthiest individual and a personal friend of Lopez Obrador, but he has criticized the government’s decision to fight the pandemic by ordering the closure of non-essential businesses and imposing social-distancing restrictions. EFE-EPA