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Inside Story Americas
Is the media fair in Latin America?
As allegations of media bias against the Left emerge, we ask if the region's press favours conservative interests.
Last Modified: 06 Jul 2012 12:26

There have been allegations of dirty tricks in Mexico's election and also allegations of media bias against the left, not just in Mexico but also elsewhere in Latin America.

Enrique Pena Nieto thought he had won Mexico's elections on Sunday, but he will have to wait to be officially crowned Mexico's president-elect.

"There needs to be more confidence in the Mexican system. The Mexican electoral system is doing this recount because they need to maintain this particular credibility but having watched those elections on television and watched how the media portray them, I can tell you that they felt stage-managed in many ways."

- Rick Rockwell, a former adviser to Argentina's government on media reform

Election officials announced that they were recounting more than half the ballot boxes in the presidential election.

But there is also an allegation of vote-buying - with Pena Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), accused of trading votes for shopping vouchers and other gifts.

Leading those allegations is Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the second placed candidate but Lopez Obrador is also levelling another allegation about the campaign: "As all of you know, the support from the media in favour of Enrique Pena Nieto was evident. They sponsored him, most of the media."

Lopez Obrador is not the only leftist political leader in Latin America accusing the media of being bias.

Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's president, has long railed against his country's television channels and newspapers whom he accuses of backing an attempted coup against him in 2002.

Ecuador's Rafael Correa and Argentina's Cristina Kirchner have also battled alleged media bias. But all three have in turn been accused of censorship and trying to squash dissent in the ways they have tackled the press.

"There are some deeper issues having to do with the role of the media that I think should be addressed. This is going to be an ongoing debate in Mexico and in other countries in Latin America to actually make the electoral processes more equitable." 

- Gerardo Munck, a Latin America specialist from the University of Southern California

A closer look at recent clashes between left-leaning governments and entrenched right-wing media interests in Latin America, shows that just last week in Venezuela, the anti-Chavez television news channel Globovision paid more than $2m in fines, the latest chapter in a long-running battle.

The state regulator had accused Globovision of manipulating information about a prison riot and adding the sound of gunfire to reports.

In February, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, pardoned the owners and a journalist at El Universo newspaper. They were facing jail terms and $4m in damages for libelling him.

The paper had branded Correa a dictator and made other unsubstantiated allegations.

And in Argentina, the Kirchner government has been battling the Clarin group for years. A media law passed in 2009 seeking to diversify media ownership was seen by some as an effort to eliminate Clarin's dominant market position.

So, is the media fair in Latin America?

Inside Story Americas, with presenter Anand Naidoo, discusses with guests: Rick Rockwell from American University, a former adviser to Argentina's government on media reform; Gerardo Munck, a Latin America specialist from the University of Southern California; and David Holiday, from the Latin America Program at the Open Society Institute - a democracy and human rights think tank.

"No matter how hard they try to present proof they will simply not be able to do it because they don’t exist. There has not been a relationship [with the media] .... We have had a transparent relationship with the mass media. I think Mexico has made democratic strides that some do not want to recognise. And they do not recognise it when the results of the votes don’t favour them because we don’t hear the same complaints from this same person [Lopez Obrador ] when he was elected mayor of Mexico City."

Enrique Pena Nieto, Mexico's unconfirmed presidential winner 

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ALLEGED FRAUD IN MEXICO'S ELECTIONS

  • Growing allegations of systematic vote buying in Mexico’s presidential election
  • Mexico law states votes should be recounted if inconsistencies exist
  • Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of PRD party demanded total recount
  • Alleged credit card handouts by Pena Nieto's campaign total $5.2m
  • In Mexico, it is not against the law to give gifts in elections
  • Votes cast at 78,012 of 143,132 polling stations will be recounted
  • Recounts at two-thirds of polling booths for congressional elections
  • Preliminary results put Pena Nieto at 38.15 per cent of the vote
  • US president Obama and foreign leaders congratulated Pena Nieto on victory
  • Final recount and overall count on presidential vote ready by Sunday

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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