Report to the 76 IAPA General Assembly
October 21-23, 2020

During this period, the bad relationship between President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and the media - especially the printed media - persisted and increased. The Mexican president dedicates a good part of his morning press conferences to complain about the newspapers' coverage of his events and the criticism of columnists, which, he argues, is unfairly widespread.

Violence against journalists persisted, claiming the lives of six - including two cases where they had protective measures.

María Elena Ferral - a journalist for Diario de Xalapa - was murdered on March 30. She used to report on municipalities in the Papantla mountain range and in the northern region of Veracruz state. She died after being shot in the municipality of Papantla. Ferral reported that she had been receiving threats because of her journalistic work in the Papantla mountains. On May 7, the Veracruz Attorney General's Office confirmed the motive for the murder was related to her profession, and ordered the arrest of 11 individuals, including a councilman and a reporter. On May 24, an armed group shot at a vehicle in which the daughter of the murdered journalist was traveling. Agents of the Secretary of Public Security repelled the attack. The case remains open and investigations continue.

The Guerrero Prosecutor's Office reported that on April 8 it had found the remains of the 53-year-old journalist Víctor Fernando Álvarez Chávez - director of the news website Punto for Punto - who disappeared in Guerrero on April 1. He had been seen for the last time in the colony Ciudad Renacimiento, near the port of Acapulco.

Jorge Armenta Ávalos - director of the newspaper El Tiempo, Medios Obson, one of the best-known newspapers in the southern region of Sonora and the weekly Última Palabra - was murdered on May 17 by an armed group. He was also a radio host and an artistic promoter. He had protection from the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists. At the time of the crime, he was being escorted by two municipal police officers.

José Castillo Osuna - 55 years old - founder of the information website Prioridad Máxima, was murdered on June 11, in Ciudad Obregón, Sonora. The State Attorney General's Office reported that the journalist was stabbed at his home in El Campanario neighborhood, and died outside the building while seeking help. He was a reporter of police news. It is unknown whether he had received any threats.

On August 2, Pablo Morrugares and his escort were murdered in Iguala, Guerrero state. He was the website director for Noticias PM. Several gunmen shot them inside a bar. He had been receiving death threats since 2016. He and his wife suffered an attack from which they both escaped unharmed, and since then he had received protection from the Federal Protection Mechanism. He used to cover news about the presence of criminal groups in the region. The Attorney General's Office of Guerrero informed that eight people were arrested for this crime.

The journalist Julio Valdivia was found dead in the region of Tezonapa on September 9, in the border area between Veracruz and Oaxaca. He was working for the newspaper El Mundo, in Córdoba. The experts confirmed in a first report that the body had been decapitated and taken to the railroad tracks. He did not have any special protection measures and it is not known if he had been threatened.

During this period, Article 19 recorded 96 threats, 40 death threats, 91 cases of intimidation and harassment, and 47 physical attacks. It also recorded 61 cases of information blocking and content alteration.

On August 2, the facilities of the newspaper El Diario de Iguala in Guerrero were hit by gunfire. El Diario de la Tarde and Redes del Sur also print at this facility. There were no workers inside the building at the time of the attack.

On May 12, Article 19 and Signa Lab of ITESO published the report: "Notimex directive attacks journalists and organizes smear campaigns in social networks." They accused Sanjuana Martínez - director of the news agency of the Mexican State - of asking subordinates to attack journalists Dolía Estévez, Lydia Cacho, Marcela Turatti, Anabel Hernández, Blanche Petrich and Guadalupe Lizarraga with negative information. The director denied her involvement.

On August 20, the Ministry of Public Administration (SFP) barred Nexos Sociedad, Ciencia y Literatura – which owns Nexos magazine – from entering into any public contract or official advertising for two years. It is accused of having presented a false document from Infonavit in 2017. The editors claim that it is a direct censorship in retaliation for its editorial position.

On October 7 - with the majority of the official party: Morena - federal legislators eliminated 109 trusts, among them the Fund for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists. Legislators said that resources would continue to be given to the fund, but did not clarify how or when.

The Mexican president continues to stigmatize media, journalists and columnists critical of his administration. He does so practically every morning when he holds his press conference. Every time he addresses the topic of journalists, he ends up saying that "despite the misbehavior," he will not censor the media or influence their editorial lines.

Some of his criticisms in the last few months have been recurrent, with attacks against the newspapers El Universal and Reforma, and against journalists such as Carlos Lloret de Mola, Raymundo Riva Palacio, and Pablo Hiriart.

"You only have to take a look at one newspaper, El Universal - or any other for that matter - to see all the lies, to put it bluntly, and that doesn't mean that it will be censored, it is just to call a spade a spade. We must not make things easy for those who felt they owned Mexico, who used to plunder and steal, and now are upset because corruption is coming to an end, and because impunity is coming to an end."

"In Mexico there is no professional or independent media. They are close to power and don't stand up for the people. They failed to understand the new reality, and continued to do the same thing, and many opted for lying."

"I have never paid anyone to speak well of me. I don't have bots in social networks."

"If someone is thinking or saying that we censor, it's a lie, that is, they are liars, fakers and hypocrites, because that's the main trait of conservatism. The doctrine of conservatives is actually hypocrisy. In the past there was retaliation and censorship, so much so that since President Madero no president of the Republic has been attacked like now. I am the most attacked in history, and no one is persecuted. There is no repression. The free expression of ideas is exercised with freedom. And it is important that the opposition exists, because that's what democracy is like – checks and balances."

"The Financial Times is an unethical newspaper that should offer an apology for promoting a neoliberal economic model for Mexico." During his morning press conference, the president responded to the British newspaper's editorial – which described López Obrador as the new authoritarian leader in Latin America. "Even though The New York Times, The Washington Post, El País, The Economist and the Wall Street Journal don't like it, we are going to continue with our policy."

He called Reforma a "trashy publication" because in September it reported on a fraud at the municipal government of Macuspana, Tabasco state – the workplace of his sister-in-law. And also, for reporting on massacres that took place during his administration – which he denies. In his morning conference on September 18, he showed the front page of the newspaper and laughed at it.

El Universal has responded to the president's criticism through its executive president and board of directors, Juan Francisco Ealy Ortiz: "We are not adversaries, we do journalism."

In June, López Obrador had insinuated that businessmen, intellectuals and journalists constitute a Broad Opposition Block (BOB), that seeks to attack him. His basis for this accusation was an alleged anonymous document sent to the Palacio Nacional by "unidentified persons."

On September 17, 650 intellectuals published the article: "Against the Authoritarian Drift and in Defense of Democracy." They requested the president to stop his attacks on the press. In reply, López Obrador read a letter: "you are the ones who must apologize. No one has been coerced into silence. You seek to muzzle the president." Immediately, thousands of bots, with hashtags #Yosoy2million700mil and #650chillones (crybabies), trended on Twitter, against intellectuals and the press.

On September 25 - during his morning press conference - the President presented his analysis on the negative coverage he receives. He reviewed eight newspapers and concluded that, barring La Jornada, all the others are critical of him. "How can that be, if I have 70% popularity in the polls, and the media publishes negative opinions of up to 80%. No relation whatsoever."

Article 19 denounced that there are no clear regulations, and there is a lack of transparency regarding the distribution of federal-level official advertising in the media. According to the Social Communication System (Comsoc) of the Ministry of Public Administration (SFP), in 2019, 5,212 million pesos were budgeted for official advertising, but only 3,245 million pesos were used. This amount is only a third of the expenditure during Peña Nieto's first year in office, and a little more than half the amount spent during Calderón's first year in office.