On Friday, July 2nd, press and human rights organizations criticized Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s weekly ‘contest’ that roughly translates as ‘Lie of the Week.’
Each week at his daily morning press conference, López Obrador presents a few news articles he feels are unfair, an exercise he calls “Who’s Who in Lies.” It mirrors other segments like “Who’s Who in the price of gasoline?” which is meant to embarrass stations that charge high prices.
The authors of the news articles and opinion columns are singled out for criticism by López Obrador, who talks more to the press — but is also more openly hostile to them — than almost any of his predecessors. The president’s supporters often launch social-media pile-ons against reporters he criticizes.
The Inter American Press Association says the practice stigmatizes and intimidates journalists in a country that already has a high level of violence against reporters. The IAPA said in a statement that it “calls for the immediate end to its aggression.”
Carlos Jornet, the IAPA’s president on the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, wrote that “in the case of Mexico, one of the countries where exercising journalism poses the highest risk, direct speech with insults against journalists and the media from the Presidency is doubly dangerous, a type of aggression that, as experience indicates, usually ends up in acts of violence.”
The InterAmerican Human Rights Commission has also expressed concerns about the segment.
The president’s spokesman, Jesús Ramírez, defended López Obrador’s program, writing that “the Mexican government seeks to reduce the damage caused by disinformation and lies. It is not to discredit journalists or news outlets, it only stigmatizes lies.”
“This allows the public to form their own opinion about national problems, and strengthens democracy,” Ramírez wrote.
López Obrador said earlier this week he “doesn’t claim to be the owner of absolute truth,” but he is notoriously resistant to criticism and refuses to acknowledge errors.
The president claims he is the victim of a smear campaign by “conservatives” whose economic interests have been affected by his anti-corruption efforts. López Obrador has often complained the “conservatives” pay reporters or news outlets to attack him.
Press groups say nine journalists were killed in Mexico in 2020, the highest total of any country not at war.
Three more journalists have been killed in Mexico so far this year, and two other reporters have disappeared.
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