MEXICO CITY -- Mexico’s president broadened his campaign against the mainstream press Wednesday, demanding information on the incomes of several prominent journalists, including Univision’s Jorge Ramos.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has accused journalists who publish critical stories of being “mercenaries” and “sellouts.”
Suspicion is growing that the president is using confidential government information like tax receipts to track and publish journalists' income.
Mexican law only requires government employees to report their salaries and property, but López Obrador said journalists should be forced to as well. “Their income has to do with the budget, public property and politics,” he said.
The Inter American Press Association has called on López Obrador to halt the series of verbal attacks on Mexican journalist Carlos Loret de Mola, who reported that López Obrador’s adult son had lived in a luxury home in Houston, Texas, owned by an executive of a company that got contracts from Mexico’s state-owned oil company.
The president has referred to questions on that issue to his son, who he claims has no role in the government.
But instead of directly addressing the issue, López Obrador started Friday publishing a chart showing how much Loret allegedly earns. The president showed the chart again Monday at his daily news briefing, and called Loret de Mola and others who publish critical articles “thugs, mercenaries, sellouts.”
The president had said he gets the information — which Loret de Mola says is wrong — “from the people,” but on Wednesday he said he based the chart in part on a tax receipts, which would have been available only to the party who wrote them or the government tax agency.
The president on Wednesday expanded his attacks to include journalists Carmen Aristegui and Ramos.
The Inter American Press Association said the president's attacks are harmful amid an unprecedented upswing in killings of journalists in Mexico. Five reporters or photographers have been murdered in the space of a month.
The IAPA called on the president to “immediately suspend the aggressions and insults, because such attacks from the top of power encourage violence against the press.”
A group of reporters tried to protest the string of killings at Wednesday's daily news briefing, telling the president they would not ask questions. But one reporter broke ranks, allowing the president to start an hour-long diatribe against many media outlets, including The New York Times and The Washington Post.
López Obrador has had an adversarial relationship with the press during his first three years in office, and largely limits questions at his daily news briefing to sympathetic social media sites.
Speaking of journalists who have criticized him, the president has said: “How many of them are against me? The majority!”
“No, all of these news media have to do with the public sphere, all of them are public-interest entities, concessions awarded by the government,” he said Monday in explaining why he could reveal private salaries.
Loret de Mola works for a private newspaper, a radio chain and some international publications.
He responded to the president’s attack on Twitter, writing: “What’s this! Using tax information to persecute a journalist.” Loret de Mola said the president had “false” information, noting the president claimed he earned about a third of his income in 2021 from a television network where he hasn’t been employed since 2019.
Carlos Jornet, chair of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, wrote that “the case of Loret Mola is an example of the vindictive stance of the president, who used confidential tax information to attack the journalist.”
“The escalation of personal attacks on media and journalists who question his administration and disseminate information is an invitation to exercise more violence and is contrary to the tolerance that should prevail in a democracy,” Jornet wrote.