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Mexico: Social Media Reacts After Influential Journalist Carmen Aristegui is Fired

Carmen Aristegui. Image by Flickr user chableproductions used under a CC BY 2.0 license

As reported by Global Voices on February 7, 2011, Mexican Twitter users have been very active debating the news that influential anchorwoman Carmen Aristegui was dismissed from her MVS Noticias [es] radio show 72 hours after she asked on air if President Felipe Calderón should “give a clear, pristine, formal answer” to whether he suffered from a drinking problem.

She asked the question after reporting that opposition lawmakers from the Partido del Trabajo (PT) led by Gerardo Fernández Noroña [es] interrupted a congressional session to raise a banner with Calderón's photo and a message that read:

Would you let a drunk drive your car? No, right? So why would you let one drive your country?

The segment of Aristegui's last radio show in which she covered the incident was broadcast on February 4, and has been widely distributed online.

Her direct question to the Mexican President has been documented in the following footage from her program, from minute 6:33 to 8:26 (9:03 to 9:12 am, Mexico City time). Below the video Global Voices offers a bilingual transcription of her exact words:

Dejemos la pregunta abierta: no es la primera vez que se habla de este tema, de un presunto alcoholismo de Felipe Calderón. Si usted es usuario de las redes sociales por ejemplo, pues en ese circuito de comunicación de la sociedad mexicana es frecuente ver expresiones que aluden a esa circunstancia, eh, que no podemos corroborar, no hay información específica por lo menos que nosotros dispongamos de ella, para saber si efectivamente el presidente de la República tiene o no problemas de alcoholismo. Pero es un tema delicado, por supuesto que hay que verlo con la gravedad del asunto, saber si hay o no ese problema, si hay o no esa problemática en la persona de Felipe Calderón Hinojosa. En las democracias del mundo suele verse de vez en vez que se piden estudios médicos para saber cuál es la condición de los gobernantes, qué tipo de salud tienen, pues por que al final de cuentas  están en una posición de altísima responsabilidad y las sociedades, hablemos en genérico, las sociedades requieren necesariamente saber cuál es la condición de quien está tomando decisiones a nombre del interés general. Por eso lo que ayer pasó y por lo que en el clima de las redes sociales se puede percibir, con razón o sin ella, sí merecería una atención seria, una atención particular sobre esta interrogante. ¿Tiene o no problemas de alcoholismo el presidente de la república? ¿Debería realmente, la propia presidencia de la república dar una respuesta clara, nítida, formal al respecto? No hay nada de ofensivo, me parece, cuando alguien, si es que fuera el caso, atraviesa por un problema de esta naturaleza.
Let's ask the question openly: it is not the first time this topic is discussed, the topic of Felipe Calderon's alleged alcoholism. If you are a user of social networking sites, for example, in that communication channel of Mexican society it is common to see expressions alluding to this circumstance, er, that we cannot corroborate, there is no specific information, at least in our hands, to know if in fact the President of the Republic does or does not have a drinking problem. But this is a delicate subject, and it has to be seen of course in all seriousness, whether or not there is that problem in Felipe Calderon Hinojosa. In the world's democracies it is not uncommon to see once in a while the request for medical studies in order to know what is the condition of those in government, what type of health they have, since in the end of the day they are in a position of the highest responsibility and societies, let us say it in general, societies require necessarily to know what is the condition of those who are taking decisions in the name of others. This is why what happened yesterday, and due to what it can be sensed in the climate of the social networking sites, with good reason or not, it would be worth it to pay serious attention to this question. Does the President of the Republic have problems of alcoholism or not? Should the President's Office really give a clear, pristine, formal answer to this question? There is nothing offensive, I believe, if someone, if this were the case, goes through a problem of this sort.

National left-of-center newspaper La Jornada, confirmed on Monday 5 February [es] that MVS issued the following statement: “Journalist Carmen Aristegui gave validity to an assumption, transgressing our code of ethics, and in [her] refusing to offer a public apology, as requested by the company, we have decided to terminate the contractual relationship we had with her.”

The audio in Spanish of the message broadcast by MVS can be heard in this clip uploaded by YouTube channel politicaypoliticosmx [es].

Kirén Miret (@kmiret), from Aristegui's production team, said on Twitter on February 7:

Sí, les confirmo que Carmen Aristegui sale del aire en MVS. Supongo que lo explicará cuando lo considere pertinente.

Yes, I confirm Carmen Aristegui will be off the air in MVS. I suppose she will explain when she thinks it is appropriate.

Meanwhile, @NoticiasMVS, the official Twitter profile of MVS, had nothing to say on the site that day about the incident.

Aristegui, who also has a TV show in CNN Mexico, only joined Twitter in July 2010 [es], and has not tweeted since October 9 [es].

Nevertheless, since last Monday thousands of tweets tagged with #Aristegui, and recently in connection to the hashtags #MVS and #libertaddexpresion (“freedom of speech”), have flooded the 140-character social network, making it a local and worldwide trending topic.

An anonymous Twitter account dedicated to supporting the journalist, @ApoyoAristegui, has a simple question in all caps as its profile information:

DONDE ESTA LA LIBERTAD DE EXPRESION?

WHERE IS THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH?

But there is hardly any agreement about the situation. While many defend the journalist's right to ask the question, some bloggers do not. For example, Aguachile wrote:

Why is the president forced to prove a negative – to prove something that he isn't? To put it this way: Following this logic, does he also have to prove he is not the flying spaghetti monster?

Journalist Raymundo Rivapalacio (@rivapa) tweeted:

El caso de Carmen #Aristegui y #MVS es un gran pretexto para debatir públicamente la relación de los medios y el poder.

The Carmen #Aristegui and #MVS case is a great excuse to have a public debate on the relationship between the government and the media.

In response to Raymundo Rivapalacio (@rivapa), @afhierro replied, summing up a popular view:

@rivapa pero sobretodo, #Aristegui tiene razón: los mexicanos tenemos derecho a saber el estado de salud de quien nos gobierna.

@rivapa but, above all, #Aristegui is right: Mexicans have a right to know if he who governs us is healthy.

Meanwhile, political blog Pateando Piedras reported on “Operación Tequila,” [Operation Tequila] a Distributed Denial of Service attack on the MVS website planned for 10 February. The campaign's motto read:

El alcoholismo no es el problema, la censura sí

Drunkenness is not the problem, censorship is

Fernández Noroña (@fernandeznorona), the politician whose banner cost Aristegui her job, remains very active on Twitter, saying:

Jóvenes, cuídense, anda un borracho manejando y atropella a quien lo señala

Young men, take care, there is a man drunk driving and runs over everyone who points at him

A day before, Alfredo Guzman (@ideasdelmaza) had said:

Hoy todos muy preocupados por la libertad de prensa. Pero yo no vi a nadie quejarse por ser el país más peligroso para ejercer el periodismo

Today everyone is very worried about a free media. But I did not see anyone complain because it is the most dangerous country to practice journalism

According to a study in progress, 62.89% of the tweets tagged with #Aristegui were RTs, and 39% of the tweets were made via the Web and the rest with mobile devices.

Announced by @ApoyoAristegui, Aristegui would give a press conference today, February 9th, at 11am Mexico City time.

At the time of writing this post, Twitter users were busy following the conference live. Gerardo Albarrán (@saladeprensa) reported Aristegui saying:

No rectifico ni me disculpo porque no tengo nada de que disculparme.” #Aristegui

I will not rectify nor will I apologize because I have nothing to apologize for.

3 comments

  • Sorry, but there are as much people against Aristegui, than there are for her. She acused the president of drinking problems claming buzz in the social network as proove, which is against journalistic values, because rumors can’t make news with out proper investigation.

    This post should not be this partial, there are a lot of people supporting the company that fired her, regardless of opinions about the president.

  • Jorge

    Raul, I don’t think this is problem that can be analyzed and judged by the number of people supporting Aristegui or the company that fired her. Freedom of speech is not a matter of numbers, it’s a right.

    Of course “there are a lot of people supporting the company that fired her”: good for them! You might not know this, but when it comes to relevant matters, there is usually more than one opinion.

    According to your argument -just to say-, no one could express an opinion if there´s a party supporting another point of view. That’s really sad.

    I am not sorry, by the way.

  • No, don Raúl, Aristegui did not accuse Calderón of alcoholism.

    Duly-elected representatives of the supposedly sovereign people of the Estados Unidos Mexicanos accused Calderón of alcoholism. Aristegui merely reported that the accusation had been made in one of the highest and most privileged forums of the nation. The motive for her reporting is justified: the people deserve an answer.

    Aristegui might have anticipated Aguachile’s complaint (that Calderón is now in a position of having to prove a negative) by inviting Fernández Noroña to present the evidence of alcoholism that he claims to have. Perhaps she planned to run the PT evidence as a follow-up? We might never know.

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