Since the start of his mandate in 2018, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (aka AMLO) has made it clear that at least one aspect of his mandate will be authoritarian: that of relations with the media. With the populist justification that it would not favor any media group in particular, but that it would be “transparent” on a daily basis, it determined that almost all presidential communication should take place in the space of the “mañaneras”. It is a morning session that can last more than two hours, during which he receives few journalists in a solemn and magnificent space of the National Palace.
There, he speaks freely and answers a few questions. Often dull to listen to, due to its interrupted and unchanged tone, López Obrador’s account contains a frustrated attempt to convey poetic and historical images of his own administration, which he compares to a revolutionary process. Since then, however, from a factual standpoint, the sessions have proven not only harmless but also wrong. In the “mañaneras”, the figures of the pandemic, the violence caused by the fight against drug trafficking or the murder of journalists are all downplayed and modified, always to remove the government’s responsibility for these tragedies.
It is true that there is freedom of the press in Mexico, and that several foreign media are actively working on it, often questioning official figures and information. And what did AMLO decide to do about them? Log into your “mananeras” to critique your coverage. It is called “Quem é Quem Nas Lies da Semana”, a shameful official space in which the president criticizes and denies stories and journalists. Just him, who according to a local fact-checking agency has mentioned incorrect facts in more than 56,000 opportunities since December 2018.
The biggest circus clash of recent times in a “mañanera” took place with Mexican-American journalist Jorge Ramos. The latter, official figures in hand, questioned AMLO on the failure of its policy to combat homicides linked to the war against drug trafficking. López Obrador, sounding like a professor and pointing his index finger at the senior journalist, said Ramos was wrong and had “alternative facts” to give him.
In a country where 43 journalists have been murdered in the exercise of their profession since 2018, AMLO’s daily demoralization of the independent Mexican press is dangerous and undemocratic. She encourages the thousands of enemies of journalists across the country to be even more hostile and violent: corrupt authorities, cartel leaders and militias – usually those behind the murders of these professionals. Worse yet, it normalizes total impunity – none of these cases has resulted in conviction to date – for those who commit these crimes. This ensures that they will continue to happen.
AMLO began his tenure by promising “abrazos y no balazos” (hugs, not gunshots) in his approach to violence in the country. Clearly, the strategy has not worked, as his administration, compared to its recent predecessors, is already the most violent in Mexico, with more than 86,000 murders since coming to power.
Confronting the truth and those who speak the truth may seem easier than facing the killers. But in the end, it ends up making them be even more dangerous.