June 21, 2000

The Narco News Bulletin

More on the Fortunes of

the NY Times in Mexico

The Problem:

A Pulitzer at Stake

By Carlos Ramírez

Indicador Político

Published in El Universal and 25 other

Mexican dailies on June 21, 2000

Accustomed to being able to close the spaces of reference about its work, and prone to bargain over the publication of corrections about its own reports, the New York Times has begun to worry itself over the debate on the reporting by its Mexican correspondent Sam Dillon.

Before the imminent exit of the North American journalist, here in México the exit dates are not discussed but, instead, the reasons for that exit and above all the vacuum of information in many of the reports by the Mexican bureau of the New York daily.

In a letter published yesterday, Tuesday, in El Universal, the international editor of the New York Times, Andrew Rosenthal, accepted that the work of his foreign correspondents "is subject to the legitimate scrutiny of the media in countries where they work."

But the editor is angered when that happens and complains that the Indicador Político column of Wednesday June 7 wrote "accusations that are particularly extravagant" and that the author "absolutely did not offer any proof to document them."

If the source of Rosenthal's information is his correspondent Dillon, then the disinformation that the international editor receives is of the same size as what the readers of the legendary NY Times read about what happens in México.

To begin with, Rosenthal says that the account of Indicador Político about the NY Times office in México "continúes being repeated, more frequently by you (the author of Indicador Político), and sometimes by others."

Yet it's a matter of record in these columns that, here, the matter of Dillon has not been repeated. The worry of Rosenthal is based on false information that they gave him.

On the other hand, at least the Dillon case has opened a journalistic debate in New York.

Rosenthal signals that Indicador Político "absolutely does not offer any evidence to document them." That's a strange choice of language for a journalist and editor in his use of the term "absolutely," because the margin of error in informational coverage is high.

But in the text of Indicador Político of Wednesday June 7th at least two proofs of the first level were offered. First, the two columns of the North American journalist Cynthia Cotts published in her "Press Clips" space in the very prestigious weekly Village Voice. The texts can be found on the internet at www.villagevoice.com in Cotts' column.

And the column published in El Universal also cited direct testimony from the North American journalist Al Giordano, who writes for the weekly Boston Phoenix about México, edited in the capital of Massachussets, and that has a weekly readership of 300,000. Giordano is editor of an internet publication that specializes in information about drug trafficking, The Narco News Bulletin: www.narconews.com.

The information about the threats by Dillon against Giordano over the facts that involved Roberto Hernández, owner of Banamex, in drug trafficking have been corroborated by Giordano, who authorized the publication of this information.

Still, there are more facts that Rosenthal doesn't seem to know. On May 12, 1999, Giordano sent a 4-page letter to columnist Anthony Lewis, who works in the Boston office of the New York Times. He complained about the threats by Dillon. The incident occured in the wake of the Zedillo-Clinton meeting in Merida, in a hacienda owned by Roberto Hernández.

Giordano had reported information that already had been made public by the daily Por Esto! of Yucatán, Campeche and Quintana Roo, with respect to the evidences that the Hernández properties were used for drug trafficking.

Dillon threatened Giordano that he would discredit him if he published that information. Obviously, in spite of the fact that Dillon had the same information, he did not include it in his reports sent to the central office of the New York Times.

These are the facts that should be debated. But very much in the style of the arrogance of US journalism, Rosenthal doesn't want to argue the facts, but rather he wants these "ridiculous declarations" about Dillon to stop being repeated.

Still, in New York the debate has already begun about the style of some NYT correspondents in managing information about México. Justly, the columnist Cotts published on February 23rd of this year in the Village Voice the way in which Dillon had hidden, in spite of it being a journalistic fact, the evidences of Roberto Hernández with the narco.

And Dillon had excluded from his reports that the meeting between Zedillo and Clinton to speak about drug trafficking happened precisely in the hacienda owned by Hernández.

"In México, untouchables are people who are protected by the power they wield. Such is the case of Sam Dillon, bureau chief of the New York Times in México, and Roberto Hernández, owner of Banamex," the Cotts column said from the get-go in its first paragraph.

At the same time, Cotts reported in her column the declaration by Mario Menéndez Rodríguez, editor and publisher of Por Esto!, the daily that published and followed the presence of drug trafficking on the properties of Hernández - and for this was criminally charged - that he had delivered the information about Hernández to Dillon.

Cotts also quoted Dillon apologizing for Hernández and what happened on his properties. Without delay, the charges by Hernández against Por Esto! Were thrown out of court with the finding that the reports "were based on the facts."

The complaints by Rosenthal are a classic example of journalistic disinformation. The Indicador Político column of June 7th also cited the May 24th column of Cynthia Cotts where it was revealed for the first time the change for Dillon and his wife Julia Preston, also a NY Times correspondent.

The Rosenthal letter, thus, is no more than another example of the authoritarian conclusions of the journalists of the NYT when their own styles are revealed as irregular and far from the rules of journalistic criteria.

The debate over the presence of The New York Times in México is not about the exit date of the correspondents, as Rosenthal cleverly wants to make believe.

The very same Rosenthal violated the rules, as a NYT correspondent is limited to a period of no more than three years in any country and Dillon already has spent five in México.

The root problem is something else: the political motives of a correspondent to discriminate against information about what happens in México.

Neither Rosenthal's anger over the column about Dillon - nor the rigourous journalistic ethics that he claims -- were applied when Dillon won the Pulitzer in journalism for a report that he could not prove over two Mexican governors involved in drug trafficking.

In spite of the letters of correction by one of the governors in the story, Manlio Fabio Beltrones, and the conclusión of the Attorney General's investigation in México, the NYT never had the dignity to publish a correction.

The prize stayed in place for a report without proofs and based only upon what the correspondent Dillon said and on the credibility of the daily. The Attorney General's office, on October 1, 1997, ruled that the report of Dillon and Craig Pyes, for which they received the Pulitzer, "is false."

In spite of this official ruling, the New York Times has found it acceptable that they published an unsubstantiated report without the facts that Rosenthal and others claim to demand.

The debate about the New York Times in México is not irrelevant, above all because at present the US media is already meddling in the power plays of this election campaign. But Cotts already said it about Dillon: "Untouchables are those who are protected by the power they wield."

June 21, 2000

Indicador Político

Touching the Untouchables

"I didn't really understand what you were biting off when you launched Narconews. I wish I had more time each day to follow every single story you're blasting out. (At the same time, I would be tempted to buy a large life insurance policy on you, if I could! As your friend, I of course am worried about the methods of the people you are taking on, even though I would not for a second wish you to be any less aggressive. There's more energy in one page of your web site that you can get from months of surfing.)"

-- Letter to Narco News from prominent Washington insider, June 21, 2000