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Mexico's Airwaves Aren't the Same Without Journalist Carmen Aristegui

La periodista mexicana Carmen Aristegui. Foto: Wikimedia.

Mexican journalist Carmen Aristegui. Photo: Wikimedia.

Journalist Carmen Aristegui, considered by some “the most influential journalist in Mexico”, was fired yet again by radio station Noticias MVS, just a few months after exposing a high-profile scandal involving a sitting president. 

It is not the first time that Aristegui has been taken off the airwaves after questioning powerful interests in her country. In 2011, her microphone was temporarily unplugged after she made an editorial comment about the alleged alcoholism of Mexico's former President Felipe Calderón during her radio show.

This time Aristegui was relieved of her on-air duties not long after publicizing, in November 2014, an investigation by Mexican journalists into the expenses of the so-called Casa Blanca (White House) of current President Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The investigation revealed a potential conflict of interest involving first lady Angélica Rivera, who is also an actress employed by media company Televisa. Rivera has been criticized for providing an unconvincing explanation for the source of funding that enabled the purchase of the president's US $7 million home in an upscale neighbourhood of Mexico City. 

The luxurious home is neither under the President or his wife's name, but under Grupo Higa, a construction company which was on the verge of benefitting from a lucrative contract to build a train from DF to the city of Queretaro. The house is, however, adjacent to one of the actress’s residences in a neighbouring street.

Aristegui is one of the most influential and recognized journalists in Mexico. Throughout her career she has helmed several radio and television shows. For several years her talk show on CNN in Spanish has been transmitted to several countries in Latin America. She won the National Journalism Award in 2001 and 2005. In 2008 she received the Maria Moors Cabot award from Columbia University. In 2012 she was honored by the French government with the Legion of Honor for her defense of freedom of expression and democracy in her country. The the corporation that employs her, however, appears to find her an inconvenient presence on air.

MVS/Multivisión, the parent company for which Aristegui has worked for the last several years, stated that her dismissal was related to the unauthorized use of its trademark by MexicoLeaks, a new digital platform that, despite not having yet published anything, is already a thorn in the side of Mexico's elite. Two members of Aristegui's editorial team appear in a promotional video for MexicoLeaks in which the MVS logo is visible. The new platform, which has the support of media outlets critical of those in power such as the magazine Proceso and the independent organization of Mexican journalists Periodistas de a pie (Journalists on the ground), invites people to submit anonymous reports about corruption and misbehavior.       

In a message on her morning MVS program, Aristegui said it was “unacceptable” for members of her editorial team —the same team that shed light on President Peña Nieto's real estate investment— to have been fired. 

On the March 13 broadcast of her show, Aristegui called for her collaborators, journalists Daniel Lizárraga and Irving Huerta, to be reinstated. MVS indicated it would not give in to Aristegui’s ultimatum and decided instead to fire her as well. 

On Monday, March 16, Aristegui showed up for work as usual but found her microphone had been turned off. 

Aristegui says her firing is an attack on free speech. MVS disagreed, claiming that the incident was evidence of a “breach of trust.” The last time Aristegui was fired, the company said she had violated its code of ethics. Going forward, Aristegui is likely to have trouble finding air time.

 

 

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