Spanish author: AMLO’s attacks on media putting reporters’ lives at risk

By Lluis Lozano

Mexico City, Jan 30 (EFE).- Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s constant verbal attacks on the national and international press could lead to more killings of journalists, Spain’s Raul Cortes, author of the non-fiction book “El choque inevitable” (Ineludible Clash), said in an interview with Efe.

“Although there’s no cause-and-effect relationship between Lopez Obrador’s verbal aggressions and killings of journalists in Mexico, they create a breeding ground that makes corrupt authorities and organized crime feel more free to do certain things,” Cortes said.

Amid AMLO’s hostility toward the press in his daily press conferences, Mexico in 2022 became the most dangerous peacetime country in the world for journalists, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

That Paris-based organization put the number of reporters killed last year in Mexico at 11, while the London-based human rights organization Article 19 said last August that it had documented 331 aggressions against journalists in the first half of 2022, up from 218 in 2016.

“It’s very serious that this keeps happening because I think authorities should also be on the side of the press,” the author and journalist said.

Published by Grijalbo last December, “El choque inevitable” examines AMLO’s communications strategy and the tense relationship with the media that has persisted throughout his political career and only worsened since he assumed the presidency in December 2018.

Cortes, who also is a professor of journalistic ethics at the Carlos Septien Garcia Journalism School in Mexico City, drew upon hundreds of speeches by Lopez Obrador, assessments by communications experts and his own reflections based on his career in journalism in writing the book.

And although AMLO appears transparent in his dealings with the media, what he communicates on social media and at his daily press conferences is quite limited, the journalist said.

“There’s no other president in the world who has made the decision to stand up every day at a microphone and respond to reporters’ questions. The problem is that (the press conferences) unfold in a way that at times come across as a government event,” Cortes said.

The members of the media, for their part, rarely ask “incisive” questions, he added.

Cortes said the leftist AMLO’s style is reminiscent of right-wing populist leaders in the Americas like US former President Donald Trump, Brazilian ex-head of state Jair Bolsonaro and current Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele.

Like Trump, AMLO frequently rails against the press whenever a news article appears that paints him or his administration in a bad light, alleging that the story is a slanderous attack by the media and his political opponents.

“Their messages are the same: the press lies and they’re the only ones telling the truth. They’re figures with a great deal of pull, and they’re populists in that sense,” he added.

This type of leader, he said, “takes advantage of the accumulated disrepute that the media have (suffered) in the past due, unfortunately, to their ties to political and economic power.”

In Mexico, the government exerts significant control over the media through the billions it spends on advertising, a practice that AMLO has sought to curtail with limited success.

In that regard, Cortes said the national government continues to fill the coffers of certain media outlets like Televisa, TV Azteca and La Jornada newspaper.

“And I’ve hardly heard any questions from their reporters at the morning press conferences. Which is incredible, because they’re the main television channels,” the author said.

Cortes said one of the goals of AMLO’s attacks on the press is to obtain political gains, adding that his aggressive rhetoric will only intensify as his six-year term approaches its end and new presidential elections – in July 2024 – draw nearer.

“Because in one way or another he uses that type of speech to attack his political adversaries,” he added.

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