Documents on Mexican Politics.

Self-Censorship and the Mexican Press
by Jeffrey Stoub
Former editor and reporter for the Mexico City News

  -How do you see the situation, Pons?

  -Ugly, but easy to take care of, for the moment.

  -Well, now we push it in the paper.  Hit'em hard.  Don't hold anything

  -Whatever you say, Don Artemio.

  -It's better if we get the public ready.

  -We've been plugging at it for so many years.

  -I want to see page one and all the editorials.

                --Carlos Fuentes-The Death of Artemio Cruz

Contemporary Mexican  folklore has  it that  the media  are  less
vehicles for  information than  tools used  by those with power--
both by  government officials  as well  as by the businessmen who
hover in  their immediate proximity. Whereas in many parts of the
world, and  especially in the United States, the media are feared
for  being   manipulative,  in   Mexico  the   media  are  simply

Carlos Fuentes  writes of the life of one of these power brokers,
a life  that stretches  from before  the 1910 revolution into the
late 1940s  and early  1950s, the  days of  Miguel Alem n Valds,
when many feel today's organized manipulation of the media began.
Artemio Cruz  is a  newspaper publisher.  But as  Fuentes'  novel
winds its  way through  the history  of Don  Artemio's quest  for
money and  power to  his deathbed,  the few times he mentions his
newspaper, he is attempting to promote another business interest,
sway political adversaries, or impress a woman he has met.

It seems  that in  reality, little  has  changed  since  Fuentes'
novelistic view  of the press. Instead of a Don Artemio Cruz, now
there are  newspaper owners  such as  Don R"mulo  O'Farrill, Jr.,
owner  and   publisher  of  two  Mexico  City  daily  newspapers,
Novedades  and   The  News.  O'Farrill  also  publishes  Mexico's
Spanish-language versions  of  Vogue  and  Playboy,  as  well  as
hundreds of  different 10-cent  comic books, which the government
says are valuable education devices while critics say they are an
important reason  why about 40 percent of Mexicans never learn to

Novedades  is  one  of  about  10  major  daily  Spanish-language
newspapers with  varying  degrees  of  credibility,  as  well  as
amounts of  advertising money  provided by the government to keep
the  paper   afloat.  As  with  most  Mexico  City  dailies,  its
readership is  extremely low.  It has an estimated 10,000 readers
even though  it claims to have more than 200,000. Only one of the
dailies, La  Prensa, is  thought to have an actual circulation of
more than 100,000.

The News  is superficially different from the rest of the dailies
published in  Mexico City.  It is printed entirely in English and
its staff  is composed  of mainly non-Mexicans. Its editors, many
of whom have training and experience with U.S. publications, talk
about the  newspaper being an "American style" publication. Begun
in the mid-1950s, The News has long been touted as "Mexico's only
English language newspaper" and, since it is published mainly for
tourists, carries  the impression  that  since  its  readers  are
different, its  content is  also different.  But because of these
apparent differences,  and the  expectations they raise, The News
serves as a good vehicle for discussing how pervasive the control
of  the   media--which  includes   self-censorship  as   much  as
government pressure--is in Mexico.

As a  matter  of  full  disclosure,  I  want  to  make  clear  my
connection to  The News. From October 1991 through December 1992,
I worked  first as  a section  editor and  later  as  a  reporter
covering issues  ranging from elections to ecology and from human
rights to foreign relations. On December 24, I resigned after one
reporter was  fired and  the rest  of us were banned from writing
anything that  could be  construed as  politically  sensitive.  I
continue  living  in  Mexico  and  am  working  as  a  free-lance
correspondent for  several U.S.-based  magazines and newsletters.
During my  time at  the newspaper,  which  spanned  two  separate
editorial staffs,  I saw  the newspaper pass through the majority
of a  cycle, starting  with a  hands-off policy  and ending  with
censorship, which  it has,  I am  told, passed through repeatedly
since its first days.

That cycle  can be  described very  simply. The publishers of The
News hire  an editor,  often someone who is seeking the adventure
of living in another country, and tell that person they will have
complete control  over editorial policy at the newspaper. Months,
maybe years,  later, after  the new editor has formed a staff and
possibly made  improvements  in  the  look  and  content  of  the
newspaper, the  publishers begin  to get nervous. Rumors begin to
spread about "problems" between the editor and the publishers and
the news  editors receive  increasing numbers  of orders from the
publishers explaining  what stories  can and  cannot  be  run,  a
signal that  control is being usurped from the editor. The editor
is then  forced out,  usually leaving  after growing tired of the
political scheming behind his back.

The last  of these  cycles ended  in 1988  when students  at  the
National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) began a series of
protests over  a proposed  tuition  increase,  which  would  have
increased tuition  from a  cost of virtually nothing to maybe $40
per year.  Thousands of students demonstrated first on campus and
later in  downtown Mexico  City streets,  saying that the Mexican
Constitution guaranteed  free education  and that  the government
could not  violate that guarantee. Most newspapers, including The
News, covered  the protests,  often with  banner headlines on the
front page.  At some point during the coverage of this event (the
details of  which may have been changed slightly in the retelling
from one  News  generation  to  the  next),  O'Farrill  told  the
newspaper's editor  at the  time,  Pete  Hamill,  to  "tone  down
coverage" of  the protests.  Hamill responded  that that would be
censorship and  demanded to know if O'Farrill was ordering him to
cut the  stories. When  O'Farrill said  yes,  Hamill  immediately
resigned. While  most News  people who  hear the  story side with
Hamill, O'Farrill  (and his cohorts) repeatedly say he was simply
attempting to  end what  he called sensational journalism. At the
time, though,  some 15  News staff members resigned in solidarity
with Hamill.

What never comes out in the stories of the incident, however, are
the real reasons why O'Farrill wanted the coverage of the student
protests squelched. Conspiracy theorists associated with The News
firmly believe  that O'Farrill  must have been ordered by someone
in the  government (which  for all  practical  purposes  controls
UNAM) to  call off  coverage of  the student protests. It is more
likely, however,  that O'Farrill  was acting  to defend his self-
interests, that  is, he  committed an  act of  self-censorship in
order to avoid political or financial problems in the future.

After the  1988 incident,  several editors  came and  went at The
News (mainly  Mexicans) until  Mike Zamba took over in late 1990.
He, like  the other editors, was encouraged to create his version
of  an  American-style  newspaper.  (Zamba  had  worked  for  the
Christian Science Monitor and a smaller Gannett newspaper and had
strong ideas  of what  a paper  should look and read like.) Zamba
then began hiring reporters and editors (myself included) to fill
in the holes that were left in the staff. Although the publishers
were  reluctant   to  give   the  new  staff  proper  telephones,
computers, or office space, they did allow Zamba a fair amount of
freedom, especially  in extending  the scope  of the  newspaper's
coverage from  virtually only news wire stories to stories with a
local focus written by staff members.

A year-and-a-half  later, the  tide reversed  and the  publishers
made it  known they were not satisfied with the result of Zamba's
changes. At  one point,  they told  him they  would not  stand to
watch him  create a  team of  reporters that would operate beyond
the reach  of their  authority. They obviously feared Zamba would
become another Pete Hamill.

A conflict  between Zamba and O'Farrill soon arose over the types
of business  stories that  were going  into the  newspaper,  both
locally-written as  well as those off the wire. O'Farrill decided
that stories  could not contain company names either in headlines
or prominent  spots in  the  text.  This  rendered  the  business
section of the newspaper virtually useless. Apparently, O'Farrill
felt that  any direct  mention of a company represented a form of
advertising for  that company.  He was not about to see companies
get free advertising in the newspaper. Imagine if the Wall Street
Journal were  to adopt such a policy. The entire staff complained
that this was a form of censorship and Zamba promised to sort out
the problem.  But after several meetings with the publishers, all
Zamba could  do was  tell the  staff to keep company names out of
headlines until the whole thing blew over.

Several weeks  passed before  the situation  exploded  anew.  The
newspaper's "Section  B" (the arts and entertainment section) ran
a cover  story  about  the  anniversary  of  Yves  Saint  Laurent
perfume, mainly  because there  were a  number  of  wire  stories
featuring the  company. The  same day,  the publishers  began  an
investigation into  the section  editor, saying  she must pay the
price for three full-page advertisements (the amount of space the
article took  up). The  investigation  was  an  effort  to  learn
whether or not she had accepted money to print the article. While
this seems  a strange  leap, the  practice of accepting money for
articles is  standard in  The News'  sister paper,  Novedades, as
well as  in other daily newspapers. In fact, reporters will often
approach companies  with the  suggestion of  writing a profile if
the compensation  will be  high enough.  The News, at least under
Zamba, maintained  a strict  policy of  not participating in this
practice and  would not  allow any  reporters to accept money for
any article.

Meanwhile, another  publisher-influenced change was creeping into
the newspaper's editorial policies. All newspapers in Mexico City
accept what  are known  as gacetillas, pre-written advertisements
that are  paid to  appear as  news stories. Some newspapers, like
the  daily  La  Jornada,  print  the  gacetillas  with  different
headlines (in  this case,  the headline  appears in  italics)  to
distinguish  authentic   news  from  paid  news.  Many  of  these
gacetillas are  paid for by government offices or large companies
and newspapers  find they  cannot survive  without this  form  of
revenue. Most  companies don't  bother to advertise in newspapers
because they  have so  few readers.  Moreover, the government has
found gacetillas  to be  an effective form of maintaining control
over newspapers:  if they  don't  like  a  newspaper's  editorial
policy, they can simply threaten to stop sending gacetillas.

The News had attempted to keep all gacetillas from running in the
news hole,  that is,  to  draw  a  firm  line  between  news  and
advertising.  This   was  usually   done  by   putting  the  word
"advertisement"  or   "special  advertising  feature"  above  the
gacetilla and then drawing a box around the entire advertisement.
But when  advertisers decided  this practice  didn't lend  enough
legitimacy to  their advertisements, the publishers demanded that
certain gacetillas  run within  the news section bearing a byline
reading "The News Staff." In one instance, a gacetilla ran on the
front page.

Zamba resigned  from the  newspaper soon  after these  incidents,
saying that  he could  not work  for a  company  that  wanted  an
American-style newspaper  but refused  to practice American-style
journalistic ethics.  This time,  however, no  one from the staff
walked off the job as a show of support. The News was left with a
Peruvian "executive  coordinator" named Fernando Bambarn who was
to take  over editorial  operations in  lieu of an editor. He was
supposedly trained  in newspaper management but had worked mainly
in hotel management before being hired to reorganize The News.

Once again, the process of building up the newspaper began. About
10 new  reporters and  editors were  hired (the  turnover rate is
extremely high,  with many  people staying  for only six months),
new telephones  installed, and  the entire  office was remodeled.
Bambarn also  promised that  the publishers  had no  policies of
censorship and would not interfere in the operations of The News.
Skeptical  staff   members  pointed   out  ongoing  incidents  of
important  stories,  such  as  the  shooting  deaths  of  several
opposition party  militants in  Michoac n, being  moved  off  the
front  page,   even  though  other  newspapers  ran  the  stories
prominently. Bambarn replied that he was trying to run a "family
newspaper," and that certain stories belonged off the front page,
apparently to  shield children  from bad  news. (A recent survey,
however, had  determined that  the vast  majority  of  The  News'
readers were  over 50,  retired, and  had no children living with
them in Mexico.)

A  gradual   buildup  of   these  seemingly  minor  incidents  of
censorship happened  over the  next few months, so gradually that
no one  incident seemed  worth  resigning  over.  Instead,  staff
members wrote  letters to  the publishers  and attempted to force
some changes  with Bambarn. In the meantime, most reporters were
traveling to  various parts  of Mexico  and the  United States to
cover stories that were at least being printed in the newspaper.

Trouble began  after two  state elections on July 12, which I and
another staff  reporter covered. While the Chihuahua election was
won by an opposition candidate and there was little opposition to
the outcome,  in Michoac n,  Party of  the Democratic  Revolution
(PRD)  members   cried   vote   fraud   when   an   Institutional
Revolutionary Party  (PRI) candidate  won. During  the  following
weeks, protests escalated and opposition supporters took over the
governor's offices  as well  as the  entire center  of the  state
capital. Continuing protests eventually led to the new governor's
resignation. During  those three or four months, I wrote numerous
stories about the political ramifications of the protests as well
as news  stories about deaths and fighting that resulted from the
conflict. None  of my  stories were  cut but  the publishers  had
informed Bambarn  that they  thought the  coverage was biased in
favor of  the PRD.  At one  point, O'Farrill allegedly called The
News a  "PRD rag"  and wanted  fewer political  and human  rights

November came  with another  round of  state elections  involving
fierce opposition  from the  PRD as  well as  from  the  National
Action Party  (PAN). This  time, The  News focused  on the Puebla
election  for   governor  (I   was  to   cover  a  slightly  less
controversial election  in  Tamaulipas).  In  Puebla,  the  PRI's
candidate, Manuel  Bartlett D!az,  was guaranteed victory, mainly
because he  was  a  former  Secretary  of  Government  (the  most
powerful position  after the president) and had full backing from
his party.  One reporter,  however, had  obtained a  confidential
document from  the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) that listed
names of  people  being  investigated  for  connections  to  drug
trafficking operations in Mexico. Bartlett Diaz's name was on the
list. The  document proved  nothing but  that the U.S. government
was looking  at Bartlett  D!az as  one person who might have been
involved in  the kidnap  and murder  of Enrique Camarena, the DEA
agent who was tortured in 1985, apparently by Mexican drug lords.
The Mexican  government had  known about the document for several
years, and  Proceso, a  news weekly  that does  not  accept  paid
political advertising,  had printed  an article  two years  prior
about the document.

Nevertheless, Zachary  Margulis decided that with Bartlett D!az's
running for  governor, it  was an  opportunity to  dig  a  little
deeper into  Bartlett D!az's drug running connections. He managed
to talk  with several people in Puebla who were more than willing
to discuss  rumors of  Bartlett  D!az's  alleged  notoriety.  PRI
officials, on  the other  hand, were  reluctant  to  discuss  the
matter. Margulis'  article was  to  appear  several  days  before
election day  but virtually  all references  to drug  trafficking
were excised  from the  story, leaving  only a brief election day
preview. Margulis,  who was staying in a hotel in Puebla, saw the
chopped-up article  (the newspaper is sold in major cities across
the country)  and complained  to Bambarn.  He was  told that the
newspaper's political coverage had been deemed one-sided (against
the PRI) and that he would not be writing any more articles about
the elections.

While  in   Ciudad  Victoria,   Tamaulipas,  I  heard  about  the
censorship and  that Margulis  had gone back to Mexico City since
he had  no work  left to  do there. While my article continued to
run  in  the  newspaper,  I  was  told  to  avoid  writing  about
opposition protests,  especially regarding  vote fraud. I managed
to write a few more articles about the conflicts before returning
to Mexico City, although I was not allowed to travel to Matamoros
where fighting had erupted between parties and a dozen opposition
members had  been arrested.  Bambarn told  me there was no money
for extra travel.

Upset about  the censorship,  I talked with Mariana Pr!a, head of
the PRI's  international press  office  who  happened  to  be  in
Tamaulipas answering  questions for  the  foreign  correspondents
covering those  elections. I  told her  of the  situation and she
seemed  concerned   about  what   happened,  agreeing  that  such
censorship  is  unacceptable.  The  next  day,  apparently  after
talking to other party officials, Pr!a told me that Bartlett D!az
had in  fact called  her office  asking  what  to  do  about  the
articles The  News had  published hinting he might be involved in
drug trafficking,  knowing that  Margulis intended to write about
the  DEA  document.  Pr!a  said  Bartlett  D!az  wanted  to  call
O'Farrill to  prevent the  article from  appearing, but  that she
told him  not to  get involved as that might cause more problems.
Pr!a, however, would not confirm whether or not Bartlett D!az had
ignored  her   recommendation  and  would  only  say  that  party
officials had  nothing to  do with  The  News'  decision  not  to
publish the  article. She  also noted  the well-known  friendship
between Bartlett  D!az and  O'Farrill as  well as  the fact  that
O'Farrill operates numerous businesses in Puebla.

On November  23, Newsweek  ran an article about the censorship at
The News  in its  international edition,  noting specifically the
connections between  O'Farrill and  Bartlett D!az, as well as the
possibility  that   Bartlett  D!az  was  involved,  or  at  least
condoned,  drug   trafficking  operations   during  his  time  as
Secretary  of  Government.  The  article  specifically  mentioned
Zachary Margulis  as the  reporter affected  by  the  censorship.
Immediately  following   the  article's  publication.  O'Farrill,
through Bambarn,  put a  stop  to  all  stories  that  mentioned
opposition parties. Politically-related articles of any type were
also to  be closely scrutinized before publication by O'Farrill's
son, who  was appointed  to supervise operations at The News. The
biggest story  that week  in Mexico  was  about  the  "terrorist"
opposition supporters  who had,  according to government reports,
burned stores,  beat up  PRI members,  and  fled  to  the  United
States. The  News ran  one story,  which was  taken from  a  wire
service, about  how Tamaulipas police sought the arrest of 12 PRD

After several meetings among reporters, the staff decided to seek
ways to  protest the  publishers' actions, starting with removing
bylines from all stories. The protest failed soon after, however,
in part  because of lack of support from some staff members and a
new policy  that docked  a day's  pay if  the  reporter  did  not
publish a  bylined story on any given day. At that point, many of
the reporters,  including myself,  had decided to resign from the

The Newsweek  article prompted  additional  articles  in  Mexican
publications such  as the  Monterrey-based El  Norte as  well  as
numerous wire  stories about the censorship and the lack of press
freedom in  Mexico in  general, all of which served only to anger
O'Farrill even  more. Bambarn,  at one  point, walked  into  his
office visibly  upset and  yelled at  Margulis  for  15  minutes,
telling him  that, "We  must wash  our dirty  laundry in  our own
house."  Other   reporters   had   been   interviewed   by   wire
correspondents and  gone on  the record about problems within the

But when  Margulis published an op-ed piece in the New York Times
on November 28, O'Farrill couldn't stand it anymore. Margulis was
fired the  next day and given his legally mandated severance pay.
After a final meeting with Bambarn, Margulis was escorted out of
the building  by security guards and told he would not be allowed
inside again.  Margulis' editorial, at least as far as the events
at The  News were  concerned, was  simple and direct. "Three days
before the Puebla election, I submitted the piece (about Bartlett
D!az) to  my editors. The next day, I got a call from management:
not only  would the article not run, but I was not to write about
Mr. Bartlett again. The order, I was told, came directly from the
publisher...We were  told not  to  write  controversial  stories:
anything with  the slightest  criticism of the Government will be
killed. When we object, we are told: `It's the guy's newspaper,'"
Margulis wrote in the New York Times.

But Margulis'  firing prompted  even  stronger  reactions,  which
O'Farrill had hoped to avoid. More wire stories and a major piece
planned in  Proceso prompted Mexico's President Carlos Salinas de
Gortari to  call Margulis  in for an informal chat. Margulis said
later that  Salinas had expressed concern that the accusations he
had attempted  to  make  were  unfounded  and  that  problems  in
Bartlett D!az's  past had  been exaggerated.  Salinas  ended  the
discussion, according  to Margulis,  by saying  Margulis  had  no
reason to  fear for his life and was welcome to stay in Mexico as
long as  he wanted.  Margulis' editorial  had also  discussed the
recent murder of a journalist in Mexico City after the journalist
had led  a protest  against Salinas,  demanding an  investigation
into beatings and threats against journalists in Quintana Roo and
Yucat n.

The  events   at  The  News  illustrate  a  sad  reality  of  how
censorship,  and  especially  self-censorship,  is  practiced  at
newspapers in  Mexico. It  is not, as many people think, always a
dramatic order  from some  government  office  bent  on  stopping
freedom of expression. In fact, most government offices make it a
habit of  saying the  exact opposite. No less than 12 people have
resigned from The News since Margulis was fired, but none of them
will say the governor was the reason they quit. More likely, they
will blame R"mulo O'Farrill for making poor decisions and running
a generally corrupt newspaper.

Margulis' op-ed  piece generated  another response, besides those
of Salinas  and O'Farrill,  that explains  this even  better.  On
December 21,  Manuel Alonso,  then Mexico's Consul General in New
York City, wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times. In
it he  attempted to  separate the  problems at  The News from the
perceived problem  of the  lack of  press freedom  in Mexico.  He
spoke directly  to the  issue of  Ignacio Mendoza  Castillo,  the
journalist murdered  in Mexico  City.  "Mr.  Margulis  mixed  his
account of  the murder  with a  conflict he had with his editors.
The circumstances are a private matter that concerns The News and
Mr. Margulis.  The Presidency of Mexico has exercised no pressure
on The  News or  on Mr.  Margulis to  prevent publication  of any
article or  to modify  its content," Alonso wrote to the New York

Alonso is probably right and Margulis likely complicated the real
issue of  censorship by attempting to illustrate the problem with
the murder  of Mendoza.  Alonso points to a report written by the
Inter-American  Press   Association,  which   formed  a   special
committee to investigate Mendoza's murder, that found information
suggesting the  self-employed  editor's  murder  grew  out  of  a
corrupt loan  shark operation  he ran. Mexican police have backed
this theory, although an official report has never been released.
In  the   Wall  Street  Journal,  December  4,  Alejandro  Junco,
publisher of  El Norte  and President  of the  Press Association,
said his  organization found  that "it  appears  the  murder  had
nothing to do with journalism."

But whether  or  not  Mendoza  was  killed  for  his  work  as  a
journalist does not change the fact that the government maintains
control over  the media  and shows  no real  signs of letting go.
Junco acknowledges this in introducing the findings of the Inter-
American  Press  Association's  (IAPA)  investigations  into  the
Mendoza case.  "What the IAPA mission discovered was a hazy world
of government-press interaction and intimidation that must change
if Mexican  journalism is  to rise  to  the  objective  standards
expected in  a modern  society," Junco  wrote in  the Wall Street
Journal article.

It seems  that whenever the subject of press freedom in Mexico is
discussed, the  first subject  mentioned  is  human  rights  and,
specifically, the  tortures and  murders that do indeed happen in
Mexico. But  as the  events at  The News  show, censorship of the
media takes  many forms  but is  even more insidious when carried
out without  violence and  instead infiltrates  the  business  of
printing or broadcasting the news.

A 1992  report by  the Canadian  Committee to Protect Journalists
(CCPJ) entitled "The Press and the Perfect Dictatorship" examines
several important  areas regarding  press freedom  in Mexico. But
its  author,   Ellen  Saenger,   chooses  to  stress  murders  of
journalists and other human rights violations above all else. The
first recommendation  she makes  to the  CCPJ is to "urge Mexican
authorities to  conclude investigations into the case of murdered
journalists as  quickly as possible and that those responsible be
brought to  justice according  to Mexican law." But Saenger finds
no conclusive  evidence to  connect the murders of 54 journalists
between 1982  and 1991  to government  repression. On  the  other
hand, Saenger  does point out several important problems with the
government-media relation  that tell  much about  how  censorship
continues to be such a deeply-rooted media controlling mechanism.

The government-run  paper company,  PIPSA, was for years the sole
supplier of newsprint and as such could stop supply to unfriendly
newspapers.  Recently,   the  government   allowed  other   paper
companies to  join the  market but PIPSA continues to be the only
reliable and  economical option. The government also controls the
country's newspaper  distribution system  through  PRI-affiliated
unions. The  Proceso issue  containing the Margulis interview and
other stories  about Bartlett Diaz never arrived at newsstands in

Televisa, the television monopoly, has at least 90 percent of all
viewers, leaving independent stations hardly surviving. While the
government often  points to the fact that Televisa was privatized
years ago,  the relationships between some of Mexico's wealthiest
families who  own Televisa  and government  officials  are  well-
known. O'Farrill,  who at one time held a controlling interest in
Televisa, has  often been  criticized for  his business relations
with government officials.

Ninety percent of Mexican journalists receive much of their wages
from bribes,  often called  supplementary income. Saenger writes,
"For example, a business reporter will receive an `envelope' from
the  finance   ministry,  the   agriculture  reporter   from  the
agricultural ministry.  If a  reporter becomes  too critical, the
amount of  money in  the envelope  may be  reduced or  dwindle to

While no  single one  of these well-known media control practices
would be  sufficient, they  add  up  to  an  extremely  efficient
government tool to get what they want published and keep the rest
out of the public's eyes and ears.

The end of 1992, however, brought several changes that may or may
not be  significant, depending  on how well they are carried out.
Alonso alluded  to many  of these in his response to Margulis. He
noted  that   the  Presidency  has  already  stopped  paying  for
journalists to  accompany the  president on  international  trips
(although the practice hasn't stopped on domestic tours). He also
applauded the  National Commission  for Human  Rights (CNDH)  for
taking on  55 cases  of alleged  offenses against journalists, on
which it  has issued  recommendations in 39 of the cases. Regard-
ing bribes  given to  journalists,  he  said  the  government  is
instituting a  new policy of reviewing press and public relations
budgets of  government agencies.  "Our government's  policy is to
protect freedom  of expression  and to  improve the  practice  of
independent journalism," Alonso wrote.

Alonso's final  statement regarding  bribes has recently become a
big issue  in Mexico.  Front page stories in all major newspapers
have decried  the paperwork  nightmare  that  Hacienda  (Mexico's
equivalent to  the IRS)  will create  by forcing  journalists  to
register all  money received  in addition  to their  salaries.  A
recent cartoon  in La Jornada depicted a journalist sitting in an
interview unable  to take  notes because she is still filling out
the tax  documents for the bribe the government official speaking
just gave her.

But the  new tax  measure is  in no  way intended  to stop  bribe
giving and  taking. According  to one  government official, it is
merely intended  to make  the exchange more "transparent," a word
used often  in Mexican  politics suggesting  that  officials  are
suddenly willing to write any bad deeds they commit on a piece of
paper for  everyone  to  see.  "The  important  measure  that  is
included in  this change  is to make transparent whatever payment
made or  quantity received  between a  journalist  and  a  public
office...This  is  not  an  attempt  to  punish  journalists  for
receiving, for  any reason, a payment from a public office," said
Jos  Carre$o  Carlon,  director  of  public  relations  for  the
President's Office, in an interview with La Jornada.

President Salinas  has made  much of  freedom of the press, often
making references  to Mexico's  commitment to  free speech during
discussions of  the North American Free Trade Agreement.  Some of
his new measures may alter the relationship between the media and
the government.  But a significant change in favor of the freedom
of expression  will not  come until the owners of Mexico's media,
as well  as their  friends, decide  to free  themselves from  the
sticky relationships  that oblige them to constantly rethink what
to publish  or not  publish.  If  all  publishers  and  broadcast
directors continue  to play  Artemio Cruz  and refuse  to  detach
themselves from editorial decisions, the news will continue to be
secondary to business deals and back scratching amongst the elite