Journalists worried that proposed electoral law threatens press freedom in Mexico

Mexico's Federal Electoral Institute (IFE in Spanish) is considering a bill that would regulate the right of reply during the election campaign period that would effectively require the media to publish for free all of the responses of political parties and candidates who feel aggrieved by a news article, according to El Universal.

The initiative has sparked controversy among journalists and even among political parties -- who supposedly would benefit from the proposal --, who are accusing the IFE of censorship, arguing the regulation would be a "another blow to freedom of expression" in Mexico, reported Unomásuno.

According to the proposal, the right of reply would extend to up to three times the space or time of the original story that generated the complaint. Further, IFE would be authorized to fine media outlets that did not comply, explained Vanguardia.

Gerardo Soria wrote in El Economista that the IFE is trying to usurp the powers of Congress to legislate, adding that the proposal is one more way to privilege political parties. "Not only do they live off of those of who pay taxes...(but) now, at the height of cynicism, they're trying to make it so we can't even touch them with a hint of criticism."

Beyond the legality of such a proposal, the debate also has centered on the potential impact to press freedom. Guillermo Robles wrote for El Diario that the initiative is a "blow to freedom of expression," especially considering that Mexico's press freedom ranking has dropped because of the killings of journalists, attacks on the media, and censorship related to drug violence. Approval of the proposal would be a setback to democracy and freedom of expression, "stepping on the Mexican Constitution and the First Amendment that establishes that "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech or of the press."

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.