Media independence in Mexico?
There are media that are highly critical of the Government, such as the left-wing magazine Proceso, but their slant will determine their access to funds. Last month, for example, Proceso stated: â€œThe government of President Felipe CalderÃ³n uses public money to punish and pressure, or to reward and favour media outlets according to their editorial line.â€
Dario Fritz, coordinator for the good practice programme in Mexico for freelancers by the Rory Peck Trust, says: â€œLots of advertisers donâ€™t want to advertise in Proceso because it is so critical of the state.â€
Record high levels of violence against journalists last year and the infancy of democracy in Mexico as well as the aforementioned financial issues combine to create a highly partisan and controlled media industry. Despite reports to the contrary blaming the organized crime networks for violent attacks against journalists, state officials are the main perpetrators this form of repression, according to Article19 in Mexico.
The violence against the media last year highlights â€˜the extreme polarization of Mexican society and politics in the election year, and politiciansâ€™ pressures on the media and the information system,â€™ according to a report by Article 19.
Wherever itâ€™s coming from, the climate of aggression towards journalists encourages them to use a policy of self-censorship â€“ a policy endorsed by the Attorney General of Mexico, Eduardo Medina Mora in August. That endorsement ignores completely the stateâ€™s obligation to protect its citizens from attacks on their freedom of expression.
As a result, media â€˜independenceâ€™ in the sense of independent reporting comes with a price so high that it struggles to exist.
There is an umbrella of grassroots, non-commercial media organisations in Mexico that operate under the umbrella brand of Centro de Medios Libres (Center of Free Media), using newspapers, the internet and local radio. One of their editors, Fabian Duran, revealingly said that the centre uses an â€˜anarchist-based approachâ€™:
â€œWe mainly work supporting the EZLN [the guerilla army force headed by, amongst others, the now notorious SubComandante Marcos] and all the movements that are peaceful â€“ we are for peaceful change but we donâ€™t believe in laws or political parties.â€
Fritz says it is virtually impossible for freelancers and independent journalists to survive economically in Mexico due to the low levels of remuneration they receive for their efforts, as well as for lack of a strong union and protection from physical retribution. Salaried journalists can earn as little as a thousand dollars a month â€“ freelancing generally brings in much less.
As a result, media independence appears to be something that neither the Mexican state nor its media can afford.