TV Azteca, the harrasser

A private person has bodyguards who are federal agents, without the right to have them, that don't limit themselves to protecting her from threats that have not been legally denounced, but rather to harrass a political enemy of the business that employees the journalist: That's what this is about, not an episode in the fight for freedom of expression.

By Miguel Angel Granados Chapa

NOTE: Veteran journalist and radio commentator Migual Angel Granados Chapa is one of the most respected experts on journalism in Mexico

Public Plaza column
Reforma, May 12, 2000

In an authoritarian system where more than once the prosecution authorities have harrassed journalists or scorned their complaints, it would seem like a case of poetic justice that the power of TV would put a prosecutor against the wall in an intent to break a punitive silence. However this is not what has occured in the most recent phase of the conflict created by TV Azteca against the Mexico City prosecutor. This last episode has served to display the diversity of the criminal connections of this broadcaster with the federal government in areas directly connected with delinquency.

The business that was transfered from the government to Ricardo Salinas Pliego in terms that have never been sufficiently explained has sought to make a case of violated liberty of expression or investigation, as a consequence of the Paco Stanley assassination. When 11 months ago the entertainment TV conductor was assassinated by bullets, TV Azteca summarily condemned the Capital authorities, to the point of practically blaming them for the homicide. But immediately afterward they had to eat their words, if they had a minimum of shame, because it became clear that the victim participated in the drug trafficking business. Of course such a circumstance doesn't justify revenge, but it put everything in its appropriate perspective; the case not having been far from the TV station, exhibiting the attitude of its executives and owner, they opened a rude battle not for liberty or dignity of detained individuals, but rather to save themselves from the attention of the prosecutor.

As part of the judicial process against the presumed assassins of Stanley (a case that will go forward in spite of the propaganda and arguments used to stop it), the prosecutor's office dared to ask Salinas Pliego to face questioning. So persistent before the judges in litigating against other journalists, the owner of TV Azteca refused to present himself on the first subpoena. And he launched a counter-offensive. He sent the conductor of one of his news shows, Lily Téllez, to interview prosecutor Samuel del Villar, who declined to speak with her, as it was evident that she did not seek to satisfy a necessity of information, but rather to trap the official, whom she has tried to involve in an illegal deal with the principal witeness in the case against the assassins of Stanley. It is the right of all public servants, as with all people, to accept or decline an interview....

The reporter then ordered her bodyguards, five of them, to investigate the movements near the house of the prosecutor, to cover the entrance and exit and force the interview that he refused to give. The conduct of the guards of the journalist went way beyond protecting their client and probably committed a crime. The prosecutor persisted denying the interview. The blow up that happened last Sunday has been covered with the manipulated exaggeration that is the signature of TV Azteca.

The bodyguards of Lily Téllez are members of the Federal Judicial Police. There is no law that permits that members of this police corps can serve individuals. It has been alleged that, after an investigation of drug trafficking, the journalist has been threatened and was assigned the bodyguards for her protection. There is no case in any file about such threats, that would be the (local, not federal) basis for a prosecutor to offer police protection to the presumed victim. It would not be possible to offer protection in every one of these cases.

The illegal service given by the federal Attorney General's office to the reporter recalls the similar muddy and unfounded relation of the federal government with Stanley. They permitted him to carry arms reserved for governmental personnel without having been an employee of the federation (unless they can show that in effect he was). If, as we suppose, the journalist doesn't have that status either, then it would only constitute a favoritism derived from who-knows-what dark relation that allows five federal agents to guard a private individual. And much less when those bodyguards are used to investigate and intimidate in turn the home of the city prosecutor.

As an extra measure, like the cherry on the cake, the vehicle in which the journalist and her guards travelled is the property of the state government of Sonora. Independently of the family relationships that recently explained her access to this vehicle, the reporter now convicts herself with her own information: there is an open complicity between the PRI system and TV Azteca. Public resources (persons and equipment) are used for goals that are distinct from those allowed under law. But when the assignment of such resources persues political ends, like the harrassment of an authority in the context of a complicated judical situation, the gravity of the facts forces that they be clarified. We thought that TV Azteca had been privatized. Today we can prove that it continues being part of the federal government, administrated from its foul-smelling cellars.


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