Newspaper Self-Censorship Makes Some News Risky for Mexican Journalists

By David Clark Scott, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, March 22, 1993 | Go to article overview

Newspaper Self-Censorship Makes Some News Risky for Mexican Journalists


David Clark Scott, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


THE Mexican government has taken several steps in recent months showing its commitment to democracy and a free press. Under-the-table payments to journalists by government officials, for example, are illegal now. But old habits die hard.

The March 9 firing of the opinion- page editor of Mexico's only English-language daily newspaper - The News - shows that self-censorship still exists here, analysts say.

"In some newspapers - El Norte and El Financiero - self-censorship doesn't exist," says Sergio Sarmiento, an editor at Encyclopedia Britannica and columnist for El Norte and El Financiero. "In others, there's a tremendous amount of self-censorship - sometimes to protect their own interests, sometimes to protect what they see as the government's interests."

Ironically, Richard Seid was fired for an article on the lack of press freedoms in Mexico that appeared on the March 8 opinion page of The Christian Science Monitor. The article cited several examples of censorship, including a case at his own newspaper. Mr. Seid said his employer "clumsily fired a reporter {in December} for critical but accurate reporting." Seid wrote that the owner and publisher, Romulo O'Farrill, a staunch supporter of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), lost government subsidies because of the incident.

Seid was fired for disloyalty, says Patricia Nelson, editor of The News. "If you want to stab your publisher in the back, you should resign first, then write about it," asserts Ms. Nelson, who became editor Feb. 1. She says she did not consult with the publisher before dismissing Seid.

In addition to The News, Mr. O'Farrill owns Novedades, a Spanish-language Mexico City daily newspaper, and publishes several magazines, including the Mexican edition of Vogue.

Seid says his attempts to discuss the issue with the publisher after he was fired were rebuffed.

Asked if the statements made in the Seid article were untrue, Nelson said, "I don't know.... Maybe in some places you can run things like that but not here. The publisher doesn't want anything like that. He's the boss. It's his policy." Nelson says Seid was "devious" in the way he published the Monitor piece because he did not identify himself as the opinion-page editor of The News.

Although The News wouldn't publish Seid's article, another Mexico City newspaper, El Universal, did publish a wire-service version in Spanish on March 9. …

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