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Reporters raise their hands to question the president at his morning press conference. Reporters raise their hands to question the president at his morning press conference.

Elections agency asks if reporters paid to ask questions of AMLO

Query arose after a question that produced a lengthy and partisan response from the president

President López Obrador’s communications coordinator has denied that the government pays reporters to ask questions at his boss’s morning press conferences after the National Electoral Institute (INE) inquired if that was the case.

“The INE asked the government of Mexico to inform whether it pays reporters who ask questions at the morning press conferences. The very question offends (journalists). This already changed, there has never been so much freedom to ask a question to the president,” Jesús Ramírez wrote on Twitter.

His tweet Thursday morning came after the INE disputes division asked the president’s office to clarify whether journalists who asked questions at López Obrador’s December 23 press conference had received any remuneration or other benefits from the government.

On that day, a reporter from the Public Broadcasting System of the Mexican State asked the president to offer an opinion about the new political alliance formed by the National Action Party (PAN), the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD)

In a long-winded response, López Obrador said the three parties were representative of the old regime and wanted to seize control of the lower house of Congress at the midterm election in June in order to wind back the government’s social welfare programs.

(The PRI ruled Mexico for most of the 20th century before ceding power to the PAN in 2000 only to retake the presidency in 2012. López Obrador represented the PRD at the 2006 and 2012 presidential elections before leaving the party and founding Morena, the current ruling party.)

“It’s going to be an extremely interesting election because the people will decide what they want. … Backward steps or do they want us to continue moving forward?” López Obrador said.

The PRD subsequently filed a complaint with INE, asserting that the president, in responding to the question about the political alliance, had improperly intervened in the electoral process.

On December 30, the INE’s complaints commission ordered the president to abstain from making remarks about the upcoming elections to avoid violating equity between the participating parties but the electoral tribunal subsequently said that such an order had to be approved by the INE’s general council.

On Tuesday, the INE sought information from the president’s office about whether it had commercial arrangements with any journalists. It said that a formal warning would be issued if it didn’t receive a response within 24 hours.

While Ramírez denied the government was paying journalists in his Twitter post, it was unclear whether the government had submitted a formal response to electoral authorities.

Reporters who attend the daily conferences appear to be largely supportive of the president, laughing at his jokes and avoiding hard questions.

López Obrador has also criticized the INE this week over its intention to prohibit transmission of his morning press conferences in the two-month campaign period leading up to the state and federal elections in June as part of its efforts to maintain a level playing field for all political parties.

The president said that any ban on the broadcast of his pressers would be “an act of censorship, an affront [and] an attack on freedom.”

He has been highly critical of censorship since United States President Donald Trump was kicked off Facebook and Twitter last week, and proposed on Wednesday the creation of a national social network in Mexico to ensure that he and other Mexicans can’t be gagged.

Source: Reforma (sp) 

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