President López Obrador said on Friday that attacking him in the media is a “lucrative business” and that dissenting columnists should hand over part of their earnings to a “good cause.”
Speaking at his regular news conference, López Obrador claimed that before he took office some columnists earned up to 1 million pesos (US $44,700 at today’s exchange rate) a month to write critical articles about him.
“Now they don’t earn that amount but they haven’t stopped receiving income. … Now I’m looking for a way to have them contribute because attacking me is a lucrative business. How much are they paid to attack me? They benefit from that so they should contribute something,” he said.
“If it’s 500,000 pesos, they should contribute 50,000 to a good cause and with that, they keep their permission, their license, to continue attacking me.”
The president accused media outlets that publish critical opinions about him and his government of being “sold or rented press,” insinuating that they are funded by his adversaries.
He attributed the attacks to his government’s fight against corruption as well as its dismantling of an “extremely costly bureaucratic apparatus” and termination of privileges and luxuries.
López Obrador said that Mexican Employers Federation chief Gustavo de Hoyos is one of the people behind the attacks on his government and asserted that large business owners are upset because they no longer receive preferential treatment from the government.
“They no longer benefit from the budget, we no longer allow the budget to be left with a minority, …it’s the people’s money and it’s returned to the people,” he said.
His suggestion that critical media commentators should share their wealth triggered a rebuke from Salvador García Soto, a columnist for the El Universal newspaper and a radio and television presenter.
“The president who is trying to intimidate the critical press with tax threats ignores that journalists pay more taxes than he has paid in his whole life,” he wrote on Twitter.
López Obrador has long been highly critical of media outlets that don’t cover him favorably, deriding them as prensa fifi, or elitist press.
Press freedom advocacy organization Article 19 has accused the president of increasing the risks for journalists in Mexico, saying last year that his “stigmatizing discourse” is reflected in the discourse of the rest of society and can even generate attacks against media workers.
Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, with more than 130 murdered since 2000, according to Article 19.