Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Over 60,000 join Twitter protest over AMLO’s latest attack against journalist

More than 60,000 Twitter users joined a virtual protest against President López Obrador Friday night after the nation’s leader launched another attack on well-known journalist Carlos Loret de Mola.

Convened by the organization Sociedad Civil México (Civil Society Mexico) around the hashtag #TodosSomosLoret (We Are All Loret), the protest on Twitter Spaces – the social media company’s live audio conversation host – came after López Obrador claimed that the radio, television and print journalist has a gross income of 35.2 million pesos (US $1.7 million) a year.

“… We have to see if he pays taxes, I’m going to ask for all this in a report” from the federal tax agency SAT, the president told reporters at his regular news conference.

“He earns more than me I’m embarrassed because I earn a lot if you compare it with what the majority of people in Mexico earn. But look at how much I earn – 2.01 million pesos gross per year, and he earns 35.2 million pesos, in other words he earns about 15 times more than me,” López Obrador said.

“Do you think it’s because he’s a high-flying, very intelligent journalist? A good writer? No, it’s because he’s a bully,” he said.

After Loret contributed to a report on the president's son's opulent lifestyle at his home in Houston (pictured), López Obrador struck back.
After Loret contributed to a report on the president’s son’s opulent home in Houston (pictured), López Obrador struck back. Latinus

López Obrador has ramped up his attacks on Loret since the journalist presented a report by news outlet Latinus and anti-graft group Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity (MCCI) about his son’s luxurious living arrangements in the United States.

Friday night’s protest continued into the early hours of Saturday morning and became Twitter Spaces’ most-listened-to event in Spanish with over 1 million “listens” by Saturday night.

More than 100 people, including journalists, politicians, academics, artists and comedians, spoke at the virtual protest to condemn López Obrador’s attack on Loret and violation of his right to financial privacy, as well as the president’s broader antagonism toward sections of the press.

Among the participants were former National Autonomous University rector José Narro, political scientist and columnist Denise Dresser, MCCI president María Amparo Casar, National Action Party Senator Xóchitl Gálvez and actor Héctor Suárez Gomís.

Dresser described the president’s weekday morning press conference, known colloquially as la mañanera, as a “Roman circus,” where the “emperor” takes aim at whoever takes his fancy, while Suárez said the attack on Loret sent a clear message to all Mexicans that López Obrador won’t tolerate dissent.

“It’s no longer just an attack on freedom of speech, it’s an attack on any citizen who doesn’t bow to what the president pontificates; this man, from his morning pulpit in that ridiculous variety show, decides what is good and bad,” said the film and television actor.

“This is not an attack on a journalist but on a citizen, a Mexican. And by seeking to subdue, silence and exhibit Carlos Loret, he’s sending us a very clear message: ‘Anyone who doesn’t approve of me will suffer the same thing that Loret suffered; if you, citizen, don’t praise me and applaud me, you’re my enemy. Those are the rules, let it be very clear,’” Suárez said.

Speaking to the newspaper Reforma, Loret said he was taken aback by the outpouring of support, which – according to the president – was augmented by bots that rallied around the #TodosSomosLoret hashtag.

“I still haven’t recovered from the surprise and emotion,” he said, adding that some of the comments made at the virtual protest deeply affected him.

“I was moved like never before [but] it’s clear that it’s not about me. The president’s unusual aggression against me was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” the 45-year-old journalist said, asserting that López Obrador has regularly abused his power, made “authoritarian insults” and displayed “attitudes of a would-be dictator.”

“He offended a lot of people before me and I’m afraid there are a lot still to come,” said Loret, who claimed in a video message that the salary information López Obrador presented was “wrong” and “inflated.”

The frequent attacks on the media by the president and members of his government – a “fake news” exposé session has been a weekly feature of the mañaneras since the middle of last year – have been blamed for encouraging hostility toward, and even attacks on, journalists who are critical of López Obrador and his administration.

The president shared Loret's salary and income sources at his Friday morning press conference.
The president shared numbers supposedly indicating Loret’s salary and income sources at his Friday morning press conference. Screenshot

The president’s animosity toward critical media outlets and the high levels of violence against journalists – five have been murdered this year alone – triggered widespread protests last month.

In a column published by Reforma, political science professor Carlos Elizondo Mayer-Serra asserted that no president of Mexico has insulted journalists and media outlets as much as AMLO.

“We’ve grown accustomed to what would have been unthinkable before his arrival to power,” he wrote. “The media outlets and journalists that he insults today are usually the same ones that revealed the scandals of previous governments.”

One such journalist is Carmen Aristegui, who López Obrador accused of deception and bias earlier this month.

Elizondo claimed that the president endangered the safety of Loret and his family by disclosing information about his alleged salary, an assertion the journalist also made himself.

“If we’re talking about tax data in the possession of the state, the transgression of several laws is clear. … According to AMLO, the data he revealed was delivered by the people who ‘send us information.’ That assertion cannot be proven and in any case the head of state of a democratic country can’t make it public,” he wrote.

“… The scandal doesn’t distract the public from the issue that has drawn AMLO’s ire: the report about his son’s house in Houston and the connection between his daughter-in-law and a Pemex contractor whose income increased this six-year period of government. On the contrary, it intensifies the issue in public debate,” Elizondo wrote.

“The mañanera on Friday shows how the president sees the world, and [is indicative of] the decline of democratic political life in Mexico. Although this decline spreads silently in many other areas, what we saw on Friday should set off alarm bells.”

With reports from Reforma 

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