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Aristegui's dismissal is troubling and inappropriate

Mexican journalist Carmen Aristegui tells the media today she was fired from MVS for refusing to apologize for comments last week on her radio show. (AP/Alexandre Meneghini)

On Friday, opposition legislators in Mexico disrupted a congressional session by raising a banner with an image of President Felipe Calderón and a message that read: "Would you let a drunk drive your car? No, right? So why would you let one drive your country?" Radio MVS' Carmen Aristegui, one of Mexico's most popular journalists, addressed the issue on her weekly radio show, asking on the air whether Calderón should give a formal answer as to whether he had a drinking problem. MVS then fired Aristegui for allegedly violating the station's code of ethics.

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Aristegui, who also hosts a weekly nightly program on CNN en Español and writes a column for the daily Reforma, said on Friday that the rumor about Calderón warranted a reaction from the president's office. "This deserves, I insist, a serious, formal and official response from the presidency of the republic," she said on the air.

MVS Comunicaciones, the station's owner, issued a release on Monday about Aristegui's dismissal: "In our code of ethics, we commit ourselves to rejecting the presentation and spread of rumors as news," it said. Aristegui "presented a presumption as valid, transgressing upon our code of ethics and upon refusing to offer, as the company had asked, a public apology, we decided to terminate our contractual relationship," MVS said.    

During a crowded press conference today at Casa Lamm, Mexico City's main cultural center, Aristegui said she held the Mexican president directly responsible for her dismissal, and categorically denied breaking the radio's ethics code, press reports said. Aristegui said that the president's office demanded of MVS that she read a public apology on the air, which Aristegui refused to do. She said that Calderón had a "tantrum" after her comment. The influential journalist said that it was "unacceptable" for her to read such an apologetic note, which she described as intended to humiliate her.       

Aristegui said that the real reason she was fired was that MVS is seeking renewal of its broadcast license and doesn't want to create controversy. She called on the radio owner to reinstate her on the morning show after putting out a new release stating clearly what had happened.     

While the president has the right to express his view of Aristegui's comments, if Calderón indeed demanded that the radio station order her to apologize it would be inappropriate and troubling at the same time. The president should not exert pressure on media owners either directly or indirectly to fire journalists because he dislikes their opinions. 

Aristegui's controversial dismissal has generated substantial online buzz, as the journalist's name appeared as a top trend on Twitter today. As a strong supporter of press freedom, Aristegui has devoted many hours of her show to address the grave free expression crisis in Mexico and has given attention to attacks against the press worldwide. It's ironic that someone who has been so outspoken in support of her colleagues now finds herself a victim of government pressure.


El despido de Aristegui es preocupante e inapropiado

Por Carlos Lauría/Coordinador senior del programa de las Américas

El viernes, legisladores de la oposición interrumpieron una sesión del Congreso al levantar una manta con una imagen de Calderón y un mensaje que decía: "¿Tú dejarías conducir a un borracho tu auto? ¿No, verdad?, ¿Y porqué lo dejas conducir el país?" Carmen Aristegui, una de las periodistas más populares de México, trató el tema en su programa semanal de radio, cuestionando al aire si Calderón debería ofrecer una respuesta formal sobre si tenía un supuesto problema de alcoholismo. MVS, la radio donde trabajaba Aristegui, decidió despedirla por haber supuestamente violado el código de ética de la emisora. 

Aristegui, quien también conduce un programa nocturno en CNN en Español y escribe una columna en el diario Reforma, sostuvo el viernes que el rumor sobre Calderón merecía una respuesta formal de la presidencia. "Esto merece, insisto, una respuesta seria, formal y oficial de la propia Presidencia de la República", comentó en su programa. 

MVS Comunicaciones, el conglomerado dueño de la radio, difundió un comunicado el lunes sobre el despido de Aristegui: "En nuestro código de ética nos comprometemos a rechazar la presentación y difusión de rumores como noticias", indicó. Aristegui "dio por válida una presunción, transgrediendo nuestro código ético y al negarse a ofrecer, como lo solicitó la empresa, una disculpa pública, decidimos dar por terminada nuestra relación contractual".

Durante una concurrida conferencia de prensa realizada hoy en Casa Lamm, uno de los centros culturales más importante de la Ciudad de México, Aristegui responsabilizó directamente al presidente mexicano por su despido y negó categóricamente haber roto el código de ética de la radio, según informes de prensa. Aristegui explicó que la presidencia había exigido a MVS que leyera una disculpa pública en el aire, algo que Aristegui rehusó hacer. La influyente periodista afirmó que Calderón había tenido un "berrinche" después de sus comentarios. Explicó que era "inadmisible" leer una carta de disculpas, que ella describió como dirigida a humillarla.

Aristegui señaló que la razón detrás del despido puede encontrarse en la indefinición  de la renovación de las concesiones de MVS y que la empresa no quiere polémicas. Instó al propietario de la radio a restituirla en su noticiario, previa redacción de un nuevo texto que aclare lo ocurrido.  

Si bien el presidente tiene derecho a expresar su punto de vista sobre los comentarios de Aristegui, si Calderón exigió a la radio una disculpa de la periodista, eso sería tan inapropiado como preocupante. El presidente no debe ejercer presión sobre los dueños de los medios ya sea directa o indirectamente para despedir a periodistas porque no está de acuerdo con sus opiniones.

El controvertido despido de Aristegui ha generado gran repercusión en los medios electrónicos, ya que el nombre de la periodista aparece hoy al tope en la lista de Twitter. Como alguien que ha apoyado firmemente la libertad de prensa, Aristegui ha dedicado muchas horas de sus programas a tratar la grave crisis de libertad de expresión que vive México y le ha dado atención a los ataques contra la prensa en todo el mundo. Resulta irónico que alguien que ha sido tan directa en su apoyo a sus colegas se encuentre hoy víctima de la presión gubernamental.   

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Comments

Thanks for following this case and have it in English.

Saludos desde Mexico

Our most important issue those days! In the deep there is the origin of the violence in Mexico: The corruption that she pointed every morning.

La verdad siento que Calderon se esta poniendo solo la soga al cuello, es inadmisible que sigan pasando este tipo de cosas en Mexico. Tenemos que juntarnos y apollar a todos los periodistas Mexicanos, en espesial a Carmen, no nos podemos quedar callados y dejar que este tipo de cosas sigan sucediendo.

Carmen estamos contigo desde Chicago.

Two important points:

1. Aristegui did not merely "ask" that Calderón respond to the rumors of alcoholism; she insisted that he should respond. But why? Where does such rumormongering stop? If someone else comes along and suggests that Calderón uses crystal meth, would Calderón also be obligated to respond? And in either case, how, exactly, could he prove that he does NOT drink or use drugs?

2. You state that "if Calderón indeed demanded that the radio station order her to apologize it would be inappropriate and troubling." Indeed it would. But thus far there is no evidence that he did so. All we have is Aristegui's say-so, while both Calderón and MVS have denied the accusation.

Firing Aristegui was inappropriate and likely counterproductive. But her rumormongering was unprofessional and unethical.

As journalists, you should answer:
Is it ethical to ask someone to probe his own "innocence" against a rumor which doesn't have any kind of proof? Why? Why not ask the accuser first to give some proof? Why is unethical that private company fires an employee with the signed contract in the hand? If being fired wasn't legal, why Carmen didn't showed the contract and started a legal demand to MVS?

An finally: Why on earth would she want to go back to MVS? Its not even logic!

I understand all the comments made here but as a man born and raised in Mexico I can testify to the authoritarian practices of "my" government and the increasing number of attacks on freedom of speech, not only from criminals but from authorities of all levels of government. Aristegui has been the victim of these attacks on several occasions and is now only able to work on TV in an international media outlet, CNN, which has proven to be surprisingly tolerant of left-wing opinions. What has been happening in recent years in Mexico is a degradation of many aspects of everyday life and a democratic regression. I wholeheartedly support Aristegui in this controversy.

Es un conflicto de interese politicos que la conductora no midio las consecuencias de una nota amarilla, extraño de su profesionalismo al prestarse.

On what else, this courageous journalist should apologize?
"apologize because she did a good job?
because she asked?
Doing a question for the president, is a mortal sin?
"just in case the president is an alcoholic. is not this a national security issue that concerns the public?
Why presidential spokeswoman, Mrs. Sota, told the media that MVS company had notified the President the dismissal of Aristegui?
Since when do private companies, must advise the President on who they hire and who they take to the streets?
Is it true that Carmen's head was the price paid MVS to receive the 2.5 GHz band, and the concession that the government should allow for the company?

Why does the government have not investigated all the murders of journalists, that only in 2010 were eleven?

"do uncomfortable questions to an official or anyone, is not part of journalistic work?

Does the dismissal of a popular journalist, uncomfortable for thegovernment. is related to the 2012 presidential election?

The facts of President Calderon softened as truth. Demonstrating their lies. Just one of many: His promise to fight against drug trafficking is totally false. And there are documented evidence published by the journalist Anabel Hernandez in the book "drug lords", who is threatened to be killed by the Secretary of Public Safety Garcia Luna. There are many honest journalists like Carmen Aristegui and Anabel Hernandez. But there are also many journalists who receive rewards and privileges to distort the news and support the government. A television duopoly covers whole Mexico and has co-opted and manipulated 3 branches of the government. Manipulating citizens, Internet freedom is unknown for 72% of the population.

Bravo Carmen !You have my support, you are legitimate journalist, Mex. needs people like you, said what others silent.

VERY GOOD JAB CONGRATULATIONS !!!!