Media dialogue in Mexico: Independent media 'is an ally of democracy' | DW AKADEMIE | DW | 24.06.2024
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Media dialogue in Mexico: Independent media 'is an ally of democracy'

Journalists from Mexico and Central America met in a Media Dialogue to analyze the regional media landscape around the elections. Community journalist Quimy de León was one of the participants.

Quimy de León, a Guatemalan journalist with international recognition, has suffered attacks of various kinds for exposing cases of corruption and human rights violations.  

As a community journalist, historian and researcher, De León focuses on human rights, environmental, gender and transitional justice issues. She is the founder and director of the independent news agency Prensa Comunitaria and of Ruda, a platform that covers the journalistic work of women, trans and non-binary people in Latin America and the Caribbean. Her voice was one of those heard at the Media Dialogue organized by DW Akademie and the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Mexico City on the occasion of the presidential elections in the country.   

A score of journalists from national, local and community media from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Germany and Mexico discussed the challenges and opportunities for Latin American journalism in a year with more than 70 electoral processes around the world including six presidential elections in Latin America. Topics ranged from the growing violence against journalists and its impact on press freedom to the possibility of promoting innovative coverage focused on hyper-local stories, the need to provide valuable information for society to exercise its right to vote or the advantages and disadvantages of technological tools such as generative AI.    

DW Akademie: What is the current situation in Mexico and Central America for the practice of journalism?  

Quimy de León: Mexico and Central America has become a hostile region for the press. It is one of the regions in Latin America with the most attacks on journalists, the media, freedom of expression and freedom of the press.   

It depends on the specific situation of each country, but for years we have been moving towards increasingly authoritarian models, and this has obviously made the work of the press much more difficult. Aggressions against the press generally come from central, regional or local governments.   

This has managed to spread a message to the public that the press, the journalists, can be a threat. Attempts are made to turn the press into the enemy of the citizenry, when in fact the press is contributing to democracy. 

Media Dialogue in Mexico: Journalists face up to the challenges of disinformation

And in this convulsive context, what is the role of the independent press, far removed from the interests of governments?  

The independent press in the region has become stronger and more relevant through networks and exchanges between professionals. While democracy has been limited, the independent press has become more organized. The development of research and quality work has made a difference in this complex context.  

Moreover, in recent years, the role of the press at the local and community level has also been gaining space and has managed to situate conversations from a particular country at the regional level. Therefore, the major problems of the Mexican and Central American region, such as drug trafficking, migration, the impact of the extractive industry or the problems of access to water or land, are becoming issues on the journalistic agenda. 

DW Akademie | Mediendialog in Mexiko

Representatives of national, local and community media exchanged experiences at the Media Dialogue

What role do audiences play in these social transformations?   

Part of the hostility experienced by the press in the region, both in Mexico and Central America, is due to increased stigmatization and accusations that turn the press into an enemy. Moreover, this is happening in contexts in which a change of government to aspire to increasingly democratic models is a civic necessity.  

The press has the great challenge of listening to the citizens, to understand what people want as a model of life. The vast majority of people in Central America and Mexico are proposing a more integral model of life, of harmonious coexistence with nature, offering access to basic services such as water. This is the basics, really, but a lot has been lost if we consider the impact of the climate, political and social crises.  

Gradually, independent publishing agendas are putting people's needs at the center.   

If we focus on election periods, what role does the media play in the region?  

In electoral contexts, the press acts as an intermediary. It highlights the voices of the people and their demands and meets the information needs so that informed citizens can exercise their right to vote and express what they want. This is the great challenge in the electoral context.   

On the other hand, the electoral moment is a good time for those who make political decisions to understand that the work of the press can bear fruit through the search for data or information that puts into perspective what is happening in our countries, from the local to the national and regional levels, by making people's needs part of the editorial agenda.  

DW Akademie | Mediendialog in Mexiko

The Media Dialogue group of journalists exchanged experiences on the challenges of their daily work

It is undoubtedly a complex context for the press, which works in conditions that are not only hostile but also precarious. Therefore, one of the fundamental conditions for strengthening democracy is the support and strengthening of the media and protection for journalists. 

In addition to these challenges, there is the increase in disinformation, in what way does it influence journalistic work?  

Electoral processes are the perfect breeding ground for power groups and this leads to disinformation and attacks on the press.   

The best way to fight disinformation is to do good journalism, journalistic investigations, and to ally among journalists to have more strength and increase the sounding boards. And that the conversation goes beyond the countries where elections are taking place, to have a regional look, since the implication in this case of Mexico for Central America is very important.   

These are the main challenges, in addition to making the voices of the people stronger and making decision-makers consider that the independent press is not an enemy, but rather an ally of democracy.