By Carlos Diaz Barriga
Mexican radio host Ciro Gomez Leyva’s announced in his El Universal column on Sept. 3 that journalist Carmen Aristegui is coming back to radio this month.
Good. Six months was a long time for Mexico to go without its loudest and most important voice in media.
Back in March, Aristegui, a Legion of Honor recipient, was terminated from her contract with the media conglomerate MVS Comunicaciones after issuing an ultimatum to the company to reinstate two employees from her team.
The employees in question were dismissed after announcing their association with MexicoLeaks, a platform inspired by WikiLeaks, which is dedicated to revealing information of public interest in Mexico. MVS Comunicaciones argued that the employees used the company’s name to promote the new platform without its authorization.
Considering Aristegui’s morning show was one of the top three highest-rated radio shows in the country, and MVS Comunicaciones’ only program in the top 10, it’s perplexing as to why she was let go over such a trivial matter.
Although the media conglomerate still insists that it was the ultimatum that prompted her dismissal, one doesn’t have to look any further than Aristegui’s last exposè to figure out the – most likely – real reason.
On Nov. 9 of last year, Aristegui’s own news site, Aristegui Noticias, published the article “Mexican President’s ‘White House.’” The story details how a $7 million house that was said to belong to the Mexican president’s wife, Angelica Rivera, was registered under the name of a subsidiary of Grupo Higa, a company that has been awarded millions of pesos in government contracts.
The report generated negative press towards President Nieto and his family for months. Mexico’s first lady even had to release a video statement claiming her innocence. Ultimately, Rivera announced she was selling the house (something that has yet to happen).
After her dismissal, Aristegui held an online press conference. When asked if the decision to fire her was influenced by the government, she confirmed that “it appears to be. I cannot imagine something of this size without some kind of, at least, consent of the highest presidential power or the higher powers.”
Aristegui has been down this road before with MVS Comunicaciones, when she was fired – and then reinstated – for commenting on air about the rumors of then-President Felipe Calderon’s alleged drinking problems, back in 2011.
Aristegui’s style of journalism is needed now more than ever. The other top-rated radio shows are nowhere near as critical or analytical as hers when it comes to investigating the government.
Listening to Ciro Gomez Leyva or Oscar Mario Beteta’s shows will keep you up-to-date on the country’s most relevant news, but they hardly provide a unique point of view. Especially in a nation like Mexico, where freedom of the press is still under threat, a powerful journalist like Aristegui is needed to bring forward the darkest and most controversial stories.
The radio station where she will make her return to the airwaves has yet to be announced. But that doesn’t matter. As she has proven over and over, she will continue to push back against the political class no matter where she is. It’s Aristegui who is holding the politicians accountable.
Photograph by Eneas De Troya (Flickr: Carmen Aristegui en el campamento del SME) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.