"For the president, good journalism is the one that is committed to political causes": Raúl Cortés

It is no secret to anyone that the relationship between the president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and numerous media outlets is tense. The president has stated on several occasions that we are living in times of definition and requires journalists to take positions. Raul Cortes (1976), who collaborates in the Mexico and Central America office of the Reuters agency, argues that this position goes against the values ​​of good journalism.

In his new book the inevitable clash (Grijalbo), the journalist of Spanish origin breaks down the role of the media during this six-year term and in a critical tone states that, although the head of the Executive does not always tell the truth, the truth is that he uses confrontations with the press as fuel to fuel your speech.

In the book you maintain that a harsh relationship with President López Obrador was foreseeable. Why?

I arrived in Mexico in 2006, when the president was leading a sit-in in Reforma and denouncing electoral fraud, then there was already a confrontational relationship between him and various media outlets. It was logical that upon reaching the presidency that train crash would intensify. It is true that one might have thought that once in power he could act differently. In fact, he has done things differently from previous presidents on issues such as official advertising. The AMLO government has reduced it, although without changing the discretionary way of delivering those resources. According to studies by Article 19 and Fundar, ten media outlets take almost all of the bag, and only Televisa, TV Azteca and the dayThey are the ones who receive the most. None of the three have distinguished themselves by making a frontal criticism, rarely do we see both television stations asking pointed questions in the morning.

Reform it also receives publicity from the government, and in the case of Televisa, only in the last few days has the president criticized the program Third degree.

In case of the day It is clear, it became a totally pro-government medium. My perception is that the criticism of Televisa is more for what it has represented. Emilio Azcárraga Jean has been on more than one occasion in the morning, they even signed an agreement to broadcast classes during the pandemic. The president is very aware of the importance of open television in Mexico and I don’t think he wants to have Televisa as an enemy, as he does with Reform.

How important is the press to the president?

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Sometimes it seems that AMLO has a frustrated vocation as a journalist, he has an obsession with what is published in the press. Not in vain did he create the grotesque section Who is who in lies, where information is supposed to be verified, but without any methodology. In addition, he has a strong vision of what he would like journalism to be. In 2019, when she clashed with a brave reporter from Process, it became clear that for the president good journalism is the one that is committed to political causes, which goes against all the ethical principles of good journalism that are truth, justice and independence. It cannot be what bloggers and YouTubers do who simply show their affinity with the president. On the other hand, describing journalists or the media as conservatives serves as fuel to continue fueling his political discourse of transformation and rupture. Having social networks and You Tube has given him an advantage over his predecessors because he maintains a direct communication channel with the public.

Is there something that the media are failing to do to be a counterpower?

The media, not only in Mexico, for several years we have been facing a major challenge. With the irruption of the internet and social networks, we lost the heritage of the news, this was affected by the usurpation of copyright and, as if that were not enough, the companies that fed us through advertising went to other platforms. In the case of la mañanera and López Obrador, the media have to find ways without this meaning that there is no good journalism, to question it when its discourse does not match the data. I do not know to what extent the national and international media are wrong by not going in the morning to ask for explanations in a manner attached to ethics, that is, asking without giving an opinion, or showing empathy with the interviewee, or trying to extract information with the question and not an opinion.

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You dedicate a chapter to journalistic ethics in the media.

That’s right, I see a lack of interest from the media in this aspect, we see it in the handling of the red note, even by well-known journalists such as Ciro Gómez Leyva and in newspapers such as The universal either Reform. The latest statistics on the subject date from 2014, then Omar Raúl Martínez, one of the most important theoreticians in this country, reported that the Ministry of the Interior had 3,400 registered media outlets, of which only 35 had ethical code, that is, one percent. There is no interest in self-regulation, perhaps because many media outlets do not want to go through certain rules such as looking for various sources, comparing them or looking for the denounced party when required. When the case of Ingrid Escamilla occurred, Ciro Gómez Leyva released a video distributed by the police where the murderer was seen describing what she had done. From that case, the Ingrid Law was legislated and created to punish officials or police officers who deliver this type of material to the media. What about the Loret Mola and Florence Cassez case or what happened with Frida Sofía, where the most basic rules of journalistic ethics were violated?

The president says that it is time for definitions, does journalism enter into this dynamic?

He raises this under the logic of what was happening in Mexico two centuries or a century and a half ago. He likes the journalism of Francisco Zarco, a person who wrote for the press but who held high-level public positions in different governments. He talks about the Flores Magón brothers, who had a publication that was a protest banner for a group, at the time of the Mexican revolution and that had more of an activism character than journalism. I think from the case excelsior of Julio Scherer, there is another way of understanding the relationship of power with journalism in Mexico. Not surprisingly, the first ethical codes in the Mexican media emerged in the 1990s. By the way, we also have to review what the public media do because it seems that the objective of their communication strategy is to promote the government’s political message without offering a contrary opinion to balance, we saw it in the demonstration by López Obrador in response to the march in defense of the INE. A public medium has to answer to the State, not the government, and the State is all of society, not just those who voted for AMLO.

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How should the 2024 electoral process be covered?

Informing the most newsworthy; giving equal time to all candidates. Unfortunately, in the media we see a lot of editorialization that only encourages polarization. We have to be creative in the way of reporting, and by this I mean the way of presenting the news to the people and without lying. If something has affected the media in recent years, it is doing bad journalism due to interest or haste. You have to do good journalism and be patient. The main value of the media is prestige and if we lose it our existence is in danger, but also democracy because we are the intermediaries between power and citizens, we must be specialists in that because otherwise power will control the public voice.


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