Mexican federal court confirms dismissal of journalist Carmen Aristegui was illegal

Three years after she was taken off the air, a Mexican federal court ruled that the dismissal of Carmen Aristegui from the MVS radio group was illegal. On June 21, the three magistrates of the Seventh Collegiate Court in Civil Matters confirmed a previous decision stating that the company’s cancellation of a contract the communicator "was illegal and improper," according to the Aristegui Noticias portal.

La periodista Carmen Aristegui visitó UT Austin en 2016 para dar una charla sobre la democracia en México.

La periodista Carmen Aristegui visitó UT Austin en 2016 para dar una charla sobre la democracia en México. (Foto: Erick Vega).

In conversation with Aristegui on June 21, Xavier Cortina, one of the journalist's lawyers, revealed the court's decision, in which the magistrates determined that the company "had no reason to take you off of the air," as he explained.  In fact, for Cortina this means that the contract is still valid. "At the very least they owe you 10 months on the air," the lawyer told Aristegui.

Although the journalist indicated she was satisfied with the decision, she said that the illegality of her dismissal was something that "we already knew." She emphasized that because of this, she and her team have spent half of President Enrique Peña Nieto's term "outside of Mexican radio," in an act that she calls "censorship."

For Aristegui, the "breaking point" between her team and the MVS group was the journalistic investigation known as "The White House of Enrique Peña Nieto" conducted by the Special Investigations Unit of Noticias MVS Primera Emisión that Aristegui led and directed for six years. The report revealed an alleged conflict of interest on the part of Peña Nieto with a State contractor who built a million-dollar residence for the leader and his family.

Aristegui was dismissed on March 15, 2015 after demanding the reinstatement of her colleagues Irving Huerta and Daniel Lizárraga, dismissed three days earlier. According to the company, Huerta and Lizárraga, who worked on the investigation of "The White House," were dismissed for "abuse of trust" after they expressed their support for the then-new Mexicoleaks news platform without authorization from MVS.

Despite this explanation, their dismissals caused controversy due to their presumed relationship with their journalistic work. The controversy grew with Aristegui’s dismissal, and even led to manifestations in the streets of Mexico, as well as writs of amparo made by citizens.

Since her dismissal, Aristegui announced that she would undertake a "legal battle" for freedom of expression. She filed a lawsuit, which was admitted by a judge who granted her an amparo  and five precautionary measures, including the payment of the host’s salary since she had been dismissed, as well as the continuance of her contract.

However, in July 2015, a federal court dismissed this amparo, which ended its fight before Mexican justice. Faced with this rejection, the journalist presented her case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which still has not given an answer.

MVS filed a commercial complaint against Aristegui accusing her of having used the brand of the media group without permission to support the Mexicoleaks platform.

In July 2017, a judge determined that MVS acted improperly in dismissing Aristegui, and that neither she nor her team had acted illegally. For this reason, he did not grant any compensation to the company. MVS appealed this decision. The recent court decision confirming the illegality of her dismissal is the answer to this appeal.

Although Aristegui's team has not returned to Mexican radio, in January 217, the journalist launched her program called 'Aristegui En Vivo', this time from a digital platform.

Aristegui will go to the Supreme Court

In another decision, the same court that upheld the illegality of Aristegui's dismissal, ratified another decision that condemned the journalist for moral damages in prejudice of Joaquín Vargas Guajardo, owner of the company MVS, due to a prologue that the journalist wrote, reported Aristegui Noticias.

In the prologue of the book "The White House of Peña Nieto, the story that shook a government," Aristegui wrote that Vargas Guajardo "once gallant and brave, succumbed to the pressures of power," referring to the conflict that Aristegui said ended in the dismissal of herself and her team.

Although the Court did not determine any type of compensation for Vargas Guajardo and MVS, it did grant them the amparo to choose the part of the sentence that should be published in future editions of this book, in case the judgment is final, the site added.

One of the journalist's lawyers said that this ruling will be challenged and that the case will be taken to the Supreme Court of the country. According to the group of lawyers, there are contradictions about the interpretation of the right to freedom of expression in this ruling, for example, one of the magistrates compares a prologue with a column of opinion, which is not subject to a trial.

The Knight Center reach out to the Seventh Collegiate Court in Civil Matters to access the sentences, but they were told these are not available for public review. Also, the Knight Center communicated with the MVS group to find out their position on these two sentences, but no one was authorized to speak about the issue.