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Groups condemn Mexican president for targeting press

July 3, 2021

In a weekly "Lie of the Week" segment, Mexican President Lopez Obrador selects unflattering news articles he thinks are unfair and decries them as "fake news." Various bodies have condemned his behavior.

Mexico's president Lopez Obrador gestures during a news conference
Lopez Obrador's supporters have previously launched social media campaigns against the journalists he has criticizedImage: Henry Romero/REUTERS

The Inter American Press Association, a North America-based press advocacy group, along with the Inter American Human Rights Commission, said on Friday that they "rejected" a segment organized by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, aka AMLO, in his morning conference.

In the weekly segment, translated as "Lie of the Week," Lopez Obrador presents a few critical or unflattering news articles which he thinks are unfair and "fake news." In the segment, he also makes accusations against journalists, singling them out for their reporting.

The president's supporters have previously launched social-media campaigns against reporters criticized by the presidency.

Picture of Mexican president Lopez Obrador
President Lopez Obrador is seen as more resistent to criticism from the press as compared to his predecessors.Image: Henry Romero/REUTERS

Jorge Canahuati, the president of the IAPA, said Lopez Obrador's campaign against the press was "nothing new." 

"He reminds us of the dangerous campaigns by government officials who from the public forum discredit, and censor the independent press," said Canahuati.

The IAPA further said that in a country like Mexico, where exercising journalism poses the "highest risk," directlyinsulting journalists and the media is a form of aggression that "usually ends up in acts of violence."

Lopez Obrador spokesperson Jesus Ramirez said the president's program "seeks to reduce the damage caused by disinformation and lies. It is not to discredit or journalists or news outlets, it only stigmatizes lies."

"This allows the public to form their own opinion about national problems, and strengthens democracy,'' added Ramirez.

Mortal danger for Mexico's reporters

Resistance to criticism

The weekly segment targeting journalism follows a statement from Lopez Obrador earlier this week that he was resistant to criticism and refused to acknowledge errors. He had claimed to be a target of a smear campaign by "conservatives," who pay reporters or news outlets to target him.

Mexico is considered one of the world's most dangerous countries for journalists. In 2020, the nation occupied the sixth spot on the Global Impunity Index of the Committee to Protect Journalists — just below war-ravaged countries like Syria.

Nine journalists were killed in Mexico in 2020, the highest of any country not at war, according to press associations. Two journalists have been killed in Mexico so far in 2021, and two other reporters have disappeared.