One thing that’s coming under stiff questioning is if Mexico’s Supreme Court of the Nation (SCJ) will curtail freedom of the press in order to cater to a suit filed by two left wing parties, the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) and the National Regeneration Movement (Morena).
There was uneasiness among many people in the media as last Thursday the SCJ was to vote on the issue in which all media (newspapers, magazines, radio, television and even the Internet) has the duty to accept and promote a response when an issue has been touched, even if its content is true; the only thing needed is that the plaintiff considers he/she’s been offended by reports.
The very fact that the SCJ tucked the Reply Rights Law away without notifying anyone as the proposal was being carried out and promoted by Judge Alberto Pérez was seen by many as an attempt by the two political parties to gain press space (print and television air time) to impede that their public image may be tainted, even if it is with the truth.
For many, that interpretation of the freedom of speech laws in the Mexican Constitution would be a blockade because then the media could easily expect a barrage of attacks and demands of the right to answer and respond that could not merely be costly, but very distracting as politicians in distress due to corruption would have a grandiose way to try to clean up their acts and image.
But what is worrying for some journalists is why the SCJ delayed the vote on it. The delay, whether temporary or to give time to just forget about the matter, is that President of the SCJ Luis María Aguilar should have notified people, instead of doing what is seen by most as an attempt to gag freedom of journalism and disclosure of violators of public right.
For one it’d seem that the powerful president of the National Radio and Television Industries Chamber Edgar Pereda will make the issue a priority during the upcoming annual gathering of their members.
Perhaps it was a general protest that forced the judges to stall a definite decision because a hurried judgment on the issue might provoke a tremendous confrontation with the judges in charge of voting with the aggravated media which would interpret the proposals by the left wing parties as a breach of freedom.
The result could foreseeably be a head-on clash between the nation’s most respected legal institution and the general media, as an act of treason to the people in order to protect politicians.
This is not a new issue and has been in talks in both houses of Congress, and has been discussed and seen as an option by a long list of politicians who would definitely benefit from it.
And what to say about the political parties which have discussed and in a way its approval by the SCJ would mean that all of them could preserve their holier than thou image they would like for themselves and be able to answer in the manner that best fits their image any muckraking article denouncing, for instance, the myriad of mansions they own or to deny the latest kickback they took for permitting a given project to go ahead.
The truth in Mexico is that the recently passed National Transparency Law President Enrique Peña Nieto proposed is still very much in its beginnings and still has ways to go in a nation that has seen literally centuries of corrupt government officials.
But since the change in the law was proposed by two political parties, which often hit the police news for crimes that go from murder and criminal association, to try to keep their futures candidates clean with a law of this sort, being able to intimidate the media at large would be a step further into corruption.
And all candidates will be suitable to run for office and be in a position of winning a case against any journalist that may come up with the truth against them.
This is a dangerous theme the SCJ is dealing with and their silence last Thursday only came to create a sense of panic because of the secrecy they are handling the Reply Rights Law PRD and Morena proposed.
For one, most journalists agree that giving green light to PRD and Morena would be damaging not merely to the media, but to the entire concept of freedom of speech existing and currently held in Mexico.
There have to be other proposals that if actually needed, should be placed under consideration.
Still, there’s been no decision of awarding not just these two parties, but all of them, the right they demand to continue to live in impunity for corruption and a blank check to clean up their act.