A well-known and respected journalist has hit back at President López Obrador after he accused her of misleading people during her long media career.
Speaking at his regular news conference on Friday, López Obrador asserted that Carmen Aristegui “deceived” the public “for a long time.”
“I knew people who saw in Carmen Aristegui the communication model to follow, [they saw her as] the paladin of freedom,” he said.
Aristegui – a print, radio, and television journalist with more than 30 years experience – is “highly revered” but she is biased “in favor of the conservative bloc,” López Obrador said, referring to his opponents.
He accused her of propagating slander and libel in numerous reports before railing against political analysts Denise Dresser and Sergio Aguayo as well as National Electoral Institute president Lorenzo Córdova, all of whom have collaborated with the journalist.
In her radio program on Friday, Aristegui – whose news outlet recently published a report that questioned the business interests of López Obrador’s adult sons – took issue with the remarks made by the president, who is frequently critical of sections of the press.
“The president of the republic referred to me again in a very aggressive way,” she said.
“… He doesn’t seem to realize that he holds enormous power,” Aristegui added before asserting that the intention of his remarks was to discredit her reputation, career, credibility and “journalistic prestige.”
She took aim at the president for using public resources – “like the National Palace and his own time” – to attack her and other journalists. Aristegui also emphasized the importance of journalism to democracy, especially in a country such as Mexico where that system of government is so “imperfect.”
“… We’re in a delicate, difficult transition in which … the work of journalists is very important. … At the end of the day, journalists have a job to do and in this job … various things are involved: information, … debate of public interest issues, criticism – criticism [of those in power] is a basic ingredient in democracies,” she said.
“… The exercise of power needs critical eyes and needs exercises that are not sympathetic to power. This is part of democratic nature. In a reasonably healthy or functional democracy, journalists play an important role to offer information, news, revelations, debate…,” Aristegui said.
The journalist defended her own work in the face of López Obrador’s attempt to “damage” her reputation.
“… I’ve been a journalist for many years, and I’ve done my work in the best way I could and the public will say what they have to say about my career,” Aristegui said.
“… It’s regrettable … that he, the president of the republic, wants to use his very powerful word to destroy reputations,” she said.
“… It’s not any old thing, and I think we do have to highlight the fact that … the president of Mexico … is determined to damage … [me]. … There is nothing more serious than saying things such as those the president says,” Aristegui charged.
“… He even accused me of deceiving people, he accused me of absolutely absurd things, and now it’s up to each person to work out who’s deceiving who,” she said before describing López Obrador’s conduct as “deplorable.”
An opinion piece published by news website SDP Noticias under the byline Barrientos Políticos (Political Suspicions) questioned why AMLO is attacking Aristegui now after supporting her battle against the abuse of power for years.
It said that “brusque and strange movements” are often part of “political chess” but asserted that, deep down, the president “maintains his respect and admiration for Carmen Aristegui.”
“But he understands that her role as a journalist leads her to a scenario of constant confrontation against power” and that’s why the president – who charged in 2020 that his government was “not the same as those who censored Carmen Aristegui” – decided to go on the offensive.
The SDP Noticias opinion piece defended Aristegui – who was targeted with spyware by the Enrique Peña Nieto government – while contrasting her with Carlos Loret de Mola, another prominent journalist who has felt López Obrador’s wrath.
“… Aristegui is the complete opposite to characters such as Carlos Loret de Mola: her journalism is the fruit of exhaustive research by an excellent team and doesn’t respond to political interests or personal attacks,” it said.
“… AMLO has decided to ‘step into the ring’ with Aristegui because he sees in her a legitimate commentator on issues that could generate distrust … in his government,” the op-ed said.
“… Carmen Aristegui will never be an accomplice of the government and her voice represents free questioning,” it said.
“… We hope that the dialogue between AMLO and Aristegui doesn’t separate them too much from the social justice conviction they have both shared for more than 20 years.”
The latter has interviewed the former on numerous occasions and the pair had shared a relationship of respect, but López Obrador was clearly irked by last November’s report by Aristegui Noticias and five other media organizations that asserted that a cacao plantation owned by his sons in Tabasco benefited from Sembrando Vida (Sowing Life), the federal government’s allegedly corruption-plagued tree-planting employment program.
“[The news magazine] Proceso and Carmen Aristegui have never been in favor of our movement,” he said after its publication.
“… They’ve never done journalism in favor of the [common] people, I want to make that clear. … It’s thought these pseudo-objective, pseudo-progressive, pseudo-independent media organizations have links to us but they don’t, … there’s no affection [for the government].”
While the president argues to the contrary, impartiality – a basic precept of news reporting – is one of Aristegui’s strengths, some observers say.
“… Just two or three years ago, opponents of Mexican president López Obrador accused Carmen Aristegui of being ‘pro-AMLO,’ Jan Albert-Hootsen, Mexico representative of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists tweeted Friday. Carmen Aristegui’s broadcast on Friday in which she responded to the president’s remarks.
“Aristegui was never pro or anti-AMLO. She and her team do what they have always done: critical journalism,” he added.
The Yucatan Times