|Asunto:||[mediosmedios] El golpe a Notimex, denunciado en LA Times|
|Fecha:||Lunes, 14 de Enero, 2002 00:01:24 (EST)|
|Autor:||Fortizpardo <Fortizpardo @...com>
Este artículo apareció publicado en Los Angeles Times el domingo 13 de enero
Favor de difundirlo por todos los medios posibles.
Old Politics Ends New Journalism
Notimex, the news agency funded by the government, was going to become a
By SAM QUINONES
MEXICO CITY -- The Mexican term "autogol" is borrowed from soccer and means
the goal a player scores for his opponent. It is also used to describe
actions that hurt one's own cause. Unfortunately for Mexican President
Vicente Fox, the recent firing of Francisco Ortiz Pinchetti as director of
Notimex, the government-funded news agency, was a political "autogol."
Notimex is Latin America's largest news agency, with some 800 clients and 740
employees, including more than 100 in Mexico and another 100 abroad. For
years, it was the propaganda vehicle of the government, that is, the
Institutional Revolutionary Party, or the PRI, and the president.
Fox promised to transform Notimex into an independent and respected source of
news, and Ortiz Pinchetti seemed the perfect candidate to orchestrate the
change. In the mid-1970s, he was a reporter for Excelsior, then Mexico's best
daily newspaper and the most critical of government conduct. President Luis
Echeverria, upset at the paper's tone, engineered the ouster of its editor,
Julio Scherer, in 1976. It was a pivotal moment in the development of
independent journalism in Mexico. Three hundred journalists, including Ortiz
Pinchetti and staff, followed Scherer out the door. Together, they formed
Proceso, a left-wing newsweekly, that for years was the only voice critical
of the government in the Mexican mass media.
During his 25 years at Proceso, Ortiz Pinchetti covered some of the most
important moments on Mexico's road to democracy. These included widespread
vote fraud in the state gubernatorial elections in Chihuahua in 1986 and the
similarly fraudulent presidential election of 1988. He and his son, Francisco
Ortiz Pardo, were the magazine's correspondents on the Fox campaign during
Their reporting soon reflected the groundswell of Fox support that eventually
led to his victory. But Proceso was distinctly anti-Fox, and Scherer's son
advised the PRI's presidential candidate, Francisco Labastida. Less than a
month before the presidential election, both Ortizes were fired. Neither
Scherer nor Rafael Rodriguez Castaneda, the magazine's editor, has given a
reason for the firing. The episode stained the reputation of Scherer, who up
to then was considered Mexico's leading proponent of press freedom.
Ortiz Pinchetti accepted the Notimex job on the condition that he would have
full autonomy to shape the news agency into a BBC- or Agence France
Presse-style press. For a while, it seemed possible. The $4.5-million debt
that Ortiz Pinchetti inherited was retired last month.
Above all, Notimex stories began appearing more frequently in the Mexican
press. In part, this was because they reflected Mexico's new pluralism.
Notimex reporters could quote sources from across the political spectrum.
Ortiz Pinchetti invited politicians from various parties to contribute
opinion columns. "We had no more censorship. There were no more taboos or
issues that weren't touched," he says.
But by the end of last summer, there were rumblings of discontent in the
Interior Ministry, which oversees Notimex and its budget. Interior
Undersecretary Jose Luis Duran complained to Ortiz Pinchetti that the
governors of Queretaro and Oaxaca--one a member of the PRI, the other of
Fox's center-right National Action Party, or PAN--had objected to Notimex
quoting their critics in news stories. Ortiz Pinchetti claims Duran insisted
he fire the reporters in question, which he refused to do. Duran later
complained about an article critical of Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge
Castaneda. Ortiz Pinchetti said he told Duran that it was an opinion column,
identified as such and thus appropriate.
By this time, midway through his first year as president, Fox and his
administration were getting hammered by Mexico's media. Fox was also trying
to cultivate support among Mexico's governors. The combination of the two may
have changed the administration's attitude toward the idea of an independent
news agency supported by the government. In any case, at a meeting in early
November, Ortiz Pinchetti said Duran warned him that there were people in the
administration who thought Notimex needed new management.
Later that month, Ortiz Pinchetti and 16 other top editors were fired. A
spokesman for Duran said the firing was not censorship but a restructuring.
Duran did not return repeated phone calls requesting comment on the firing.
"They said it was a decision aimed at the administrative side, but they fired
only journalists and left the administrator in place," Ortiz Pinchetti says.
In protest, 25 reporters and editors quit. Notimex is now headless, its
editorial staff demoralized. Pedro Tames, a former Duran assistant, is now
interim director of the agency.
Javier Corral, a senator from Fox's party, the PAN, called the firing
"political censorship." The Fox administration "thought twice about an agency
producing real journalism," Corral says.
Whatever the reason for the firing, it's hard not to note its parallel with
what happened at Excelsior years ago under PRI rule.
A revitalized Notimex could have been one shining example of what the Mexican
president hopes to create in Mexico. Instead, he has lost some credibility
and has another dysfunctional government agency on his hands. Ortiz
Pinchetti's fate may also illustrate how difficult it is to resist old tools
of political control when change takes an unexpected course. The democratic
traditions and habits--like speaking truth to power--that would have
protected Ortiz Pinchetti are only now developing in Mexico. Notimex, if left
alone, could have accelerated progress.
Sam Quinones is the author of "True Tales From Mexico: The Lunch Mob, the
Popsicle Kings, Chalino and the Bronx."
For information about reprinting this article, go to
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