Mexico's new president inherits one of the world's most dangerous countries for reporters, vows to defend freedom of expression

When Enrique Peña Nieto assumed the presidency of Mexico on Saturday, Dec. 1, he promised that his government would protect freedom of expression and journalism, according to the news agency EFE.

Peña Nieto, who enjoyed the most media coverage during the 2012 presidential election as well as several media scandals, is now the leader of the most dangerous country in the Western Hemisphere for journalists. Several analysts in Mexico have asked, how will the new president approach the challenge of guaranteeing freedom of expression, the security of journalists and provide more room for new voices? What will be his relationship with the media?

The day Peña Nieto took office he laid out his plan to govern in the Pacto por México (Pact with Mexico), which includes opening bidding for additional television channels on the broadcast spectrum and requiring broadcasters to offer competitive pricing for cable and satellite television.

Political analyst Denisse Dresser opined that opening bidding for new television channels is not a panacea but is a step in the right direction. "Enrique Peña Nieto cannot have an effective government if he doesn't control the superpowers that would control him." Dresser wrote in the newspaper Noroeste.

According to a study from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Peña Nieto was the presidential candidate who received the most new coverage on radio and television during the campaign, reported CNN México. In what became one of the biggest scandals of the campaign, journalists from The Guardian and Reforma accused the candidate of paying reporters and other media outlets for favorable coverage during Peña Nieto's term as governor of the state of México.

When it comes to the protection of journalists, the Mexican press is not optimistic about the return of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, known as the PRI in Spanish, which ruled Mexico for 71 years until 2000. The new president takes office with 17 disappeared journalists and 71 killed during the last 12 months of the out-going conservative National Action Party's rule.

"We don't have a good precedent," the editor of the Tijuana weekly Zeta, Adela Navarro, told BBC in an interview. The journalist said that Enrique Peña Nieto's communications team requested questions beforehand for an interview with the candidate as well as the plan for the interview. "When we explained to them that that was not our policy, they accepted, but in the end the candidate stood us up," Navarro said.

Journalist Alberto Tavira, author of the biography Las Mujeres de Peña Nieto (Peña Nieto's Women), highlighted that Peña Nieto's communications team always responded quickly and truthfully to his requests for information. "In my experience, the worst communications team was President Felipe Calderón's: they were tight-lipped and even gave me false information, which is the worst," the independent journalist specializing the private lives of Mexican politicians told the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas.

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.