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Biased allocation of official advertising - a powerful impediment to free media in Mexico

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Biased allocation of official advertising - a powerful impediment to free media in Mexico

In an update to its 2014 report, the new report highlights the latest soft censorship developments and their impact on the media landscape and press freedom in Mexico, defining official “soft censorship” or indirect censorship as any of an array of official actions intended to influence media output, short of legal or extra-legal bans, direct censorship of specific content, or physical attacks on media outlets or media practitioners.

Regulation, despite President Enrique Peña Nieto’s clear pledge in 2012 to create abody to oversee government advertising, remains weak, and there is scant political will to effect genuine change. Lawmakers failed to meet legal deadlines to establish a legal framework on this matter, while new legislation proposed by some members of the Mexican Congress to regulate government advertising has not progressed.

This lack of regulation allows massive and opaque discretionary expenditure on official advertising, including 2.3 billion pesos [US$ 143.8 million] in federal government overspending in 2013 alone. In that year, the country’s two main TV networks, Televisa and TV Azteca, received more than a quarter of all funds spent.

There are some potentially positive developments. On paper, the General Law on Transparency and Access to Public Government Information promises broad access to government advertising data. Compliance by all branches of government–executive, legislative and judicial—and at all levels, however, is so far very weak.

Also, implementation of the article of the Telecommunications and Radio Broadcasting Law that requires one per cent of advertising contracts be awarded to “community radio broadcasters” could broaden media pluralism—if properly applied. For the moment however, such recognition has been delayed and the system for transferring these funds is yet to be created, which makes these broadcasters’ existence increasingly precarious and exposes them to greater political pressure.

The report also details the dismissal of Carmen Aristegui, host of one of the most popular radio programs in the country on MVS Radio, and two key journalists from her investigative staff as an example of soft censorship. Their sacking in 2015 came just a few months after Aristegui’s team reported its investigation into possible conflicts of interests involving the Mexican President. However, their dismissal was attributed to “administrative reasons”, because they allegedly used resources and company brands without its authorization. Aristegui, who had also rejected new editorial guidelines that would have compromised her program’s editorial independence, opposed this decision and demanded their reinstatement, which MVS refused.

The report’s findings call on executive and legislative branches to act to realize the 2012 presidential promise regarding government advertising, thereby fostering the free, independent and pluralistic media essential to democratic development.

“Both public officials and media must accept and encourage much greater transparency and abide by clear rules if the power and pressures of soft censorship in Mexico are ever to be curtailed,” the report concludes.

Read our exclusive World Editors Forum blogpost on the issue: Governments Cannot Ignore Soft Censorship

Learn more about Soft Censorship at www.softcensorship.org, download the free reports and help spread the word using the hashtag #softcensorship

Fundar, responsible for the research in Mexico, is an independent, interdisciplinary and plural organisation devoted to research issues related todemocracy and citizen participation. Fundar monitors public policies and publicinstitutions through applied research, critical reflection, experimentation and linkage with civil, social, and governmental actors.

This post was written by Mariona Sanz Cortell

Author

WAN-IFRA External Contributor

Date

2015-11-22 22:23

Author information

The World Editors Forum is the organisation within the World Association of Newspapers devoted to newspaper editors worldwide. The Editors Weblog (www.editorsweblog.org), launched in January 2004, is a WEF initiative designed to facilitate the diffusion of information relevant to newspapers and their editors.


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