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Alejandro Moreno, PRI national president and former Campeche governor. Alejandro Moreno, PRI national president and former Campeche governor.

PRI leader: ‘You don’t need to shoot and kill journalists, just starve them to death’

Many media outlets depend on government advertising revenue to survive

A callous remark about journalists has earned the national president of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) a rebuke from the press freedom advocacy organization Article 19.

Campeche Governor Layda Sansores on Tuesday released audio of Alejandro Moreno saying that journalists should be allowed to die of hunger.

“Journalists shouldn’t be shot to death, they should be killed of hunger,” Moreno said in expletive-laden audio broadcast by Sansores during her weekly social media program Martes del Jaguar.

The PRI chief, who is also a federal deputy, apparently made the remark to a colleague while he was governor of Campeche between 2015 and 2019. It was unclear how Sansores obtained the audio, but Moreno has pointed his finger at the Campeche attorney general.

The politician’s disparaging comment is considered especially insensitive because Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. Eleven Mexican journalists have been murdered so far this year.

In the audio released by Sansores, Moreno didn’t elaborate on his proposal to allow journalists to die of hunger, but many media outlets depend on government advertising revenue to survive and would fold if that income dried up.

Article 19 categorically rejected Moreno’s remark, saying in a statement that it “denotes the relation of violence and subjugation between political authorities and the press as well as intolerance of criticism and public scrutiny.”

The organization said it wasn’t Moreno’s first attack on the press, citing other cases when he was a candidate for governor in Campeche and after he took office in the Yucatán Peninsula state.

Campeche Governor Layda Sansores shared the recording on Twitter, in addition to airing it on her weekly online program, Martes del Jaguar.

“The political leader is also linked to the imprisonment and torture of the journalist Miguel Ángel Villarino Arnábar. In 2018, Villarino Arnábar, one of the journalists that the government of Moreno Cárdenas pursued and labeled as ‘enemies of Campeche’ was imprisoned for 58 days,” Article 19 said.

“… The ‘kill them of hunger’ [comment] emphasizes a problem of structural violence against the press: job insecurity,” it added.

The organization demanded an “exhaustive, impartial, objective, professional and serious investigation” into “acts of censorship perpetrated” in Campeche while Moreno was governor and urged the PRI leader to offer a public apology to the press and acknowledge the fundamental work it does in a democratic society.

“Finally, we make a vigorous call to all political parties to commit to respect of freedom of speech and the free exercise of journalism,” Article 19 said.

Moreno claimed Tuesday that recordings broadcast by Sansores – the governor has also transmitted other damning remarks – were edited and constitute a smear campaign orchestrated by the federal government and the ruling Morena party, which the Campeche governor represents.

“It’s time to clear up some points amid the attempts of the Morena government to create division and confrontation between the opposition, the media and civil society,” he wrote on Twitter.

“The federal government and Morena, through the governor Layda Sansores, have launched a campaign to discredit me, publishing audio that is clearly illegally obtained recordings that have been vilely edited for the purpose of making up phrases and conversations that didn’t exist,” Moreno said.

He claimed that some of the audio disseminated by the governor featured remarks made by “fake voices” that were presented as if they were made by him.

The current governor of Campeche, Layda Sansores.
The current governor of Campeche, Layda Sansores.

The PRI chief charged that Morena had used a tactic employed by dictatorships. “We can’t succumb to their smokescreens and lies,” he wrote.

“If the audio presented by the governor of Campeche … had a shred of truth, … [the government] would have gone to the authorities to file a complaint. As this isn’t the case, they prefer to publish them on an insipid program based on gossip and lies,” Moreno said.

In a subsequent tweet, he claimed that the smear campaign against him was motivated by the PRI’s rejection of the government’s proposed electricity reform.

“We knew that these attacks would occur, it’s their way of operating. They’re not familiar with dialogue … [nor] freedom of speech and thought. With me this authoritarian government will run into a wall. I will confront them with truth and justice. We will not allow them to establish a dictatorship,” Moreno wrote.

He also said he would file a complaint with the federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR) against those “disseminating false information and lying to citizens.”

On Wednesday, Moreno said that an independent expert analysis of the incriminating audio will be carried out to expose the “manipulation and fabrication of events.”

“All the audio is obtained and manipulated with an espionage system, which was never delivered to the Federal Police and was ‘stolen’ by the current attorney general of Campeche [Renato Sales],” he wrote on Twitter.

“The supplier is an Israeli company and a ‘little bird’ just said the attorney general (formerly the national security commissioner) has it. The ‘robbery’ of this equipment worth more than 800 million pesos has already been reported to the FGR by the ASF [Federal Auditor’s Office],” Moreno said.

He published the ASF complaint and accused the federal government of “inventing conspiracies, … crimes and now audio.”

With the espionage system, Moreno said in another tweet, “they say that they’re spying on the entire opposition, journalists and businesspeople.”

The previous PRI federal government used the Israeli-made Pegasus spyware suite to spy on critics and opponents, but President López Obrador has asserted that his administration doesn’t spy on anyone.

In addition to broadcasting Moreno’s remark against journalists, Sansores has disseminated audio in which the PRI chief (or at least a person presented as him) is heard discussing 25 million pesos in questionable campaign funding the PRI apparently received from cinema chain Cinépolis.

Among yet more compromising recordings released by the Campeche governor is one tape in which Moreno discusses a facial botox procedure with a plastic surgeon. The former governor offers to fly the surgeon to Campeche on his private plane for a three or four-day all-expenses-paid trip. “I’ll provide my plane, … I have an apartment [you can use],” Moreno said.

With reports from El Universal, Milenio, Reforma and La Jornada

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