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Narco News 2001

January 12, 2001

Alvaro Cepeda Neri, nationally syndicated columnist in Mexico known for his expertise in Press Freedom issues, weighs in today with a call to Mexican and US journalists to defend liberty of expression:

"As Mexican and US journalists, we must unite our voices to expose the attack by Roberto Hernández, who in the name of Banamex, persists in his vengeful conduct over one fact: the truthful information that in the beaches of his Sancho Panza island, on the coast of Quintana Roo, there were landings and launchings by narco-traffickers."

-- Alvaro Cepeda Neri

The Banker and Freedom of the Press

(Hernández v. Por Esto)

by Alvaro Cepeda Neri

I. The columnist Carlos Ramírez, vigilant even to the weeds that grow against the constitutional liberties of the press, has reminded us of a matter that is in the courts with respect to a problem that involves the newspaper "Por Esto!" and its publisher Mario R. Menéndez, sued by Robert Hernández, the Salinista, major stockholder and practical owner of Banamex (one of the banks that the booty of privatization then placed in the hands of the man who, in the past presidential term, was the constant scuba-diving companion of President Zedillo and the one who loaned his island on the Mexican Caribbean to Mr. Fox and also gave him two mansions for his use after the election).

II. As can be deduced, Mr. Hernández-Banamex has known how to gain possession and create interests within the cupola of presidential power as it passes from the PRI to the PAN party. A powerful person, but not in what he thought he could do four years ago, that is, sue the journalist and his newspaper. Because in the pages of Por Esto! was published an investigation backed by facts and deepened by photographs that, according to the US Supreme Court doctrine, met the standard of truthful information (see "The Sullivan Gertz Doctrine: A Legal Ruling in Favor of Information" by Mariano Albur, "Francisco Zarco Publishers," 1999).

III. The aforementioned case is owed to the fact that the banker, beyond having been defeated twice in Mexican courts, has rebrought the case before US judges, and like any good ignoramus (he doesn't know that the precedent of "Sullivan-Gertz" exists), he supposes that with his money and his lawyers he will be able to obtain a favorable judgement and punishment against the Mexican journalist and another from the United States, Al Giordano, who are not exactly in the eye of the hurricane, but in the tarnished peephole of the Salinista, Zedillista and now Foxista banker.

IV. The investigative journalism (with photographs and the assistance of eye witnesses) reported in 1996 that the beaches in the jurisdiction of the island property of the banker (Sancho Panza has the blame for walking around asking for islands), were used to load and unload packets of cocaine. The information, obviously, disgusted Mr. Hernández, but not to the degree that he filed a complaint before the Attorney General so that they could investigate who used his property and who benefited from this drug trafficking. Believing himself to be owner of the world with his money and influence in the Mexican presidential mansion, Los Pinos, what he did instead was to accuse the newspaper edited and circulated in Yucatán as well as its publisher, arguing defamation over a report that continues being true.

V. The aforementioned banker has sued the US journalist because Al Giordano, who leads modern journalistic services on the Internet, was informing and criticizing that the reports of Sam Dillon of The New York Times, obviously in bad faith, ignored the information that already had been published about drug trafficking in the private beaches of the banker's island. This, when Clinton visited the capital of the Yucatán peninsula. "Accused by Giordano, Dillon declared that he did not consider the information to be important." (Carlos Ramírez, El Universal, January 8, 2001).

VI. National journalism has knocking on its door a question that it must address, since this already is about, one more time, the traditional attack against the freedom of information in the context of Freedom of the Press. But, beyond that, this is the first case of this kind in the administration of Fox and the PAN. The owner of Banamex, by accusing the US journalist and kicking anew at the Mexican journalist (and his newspaper Por Esto!), has made this not about exercising his rights - since already he was denied twice by Mexican courts - but rather to execute revenge against those who exercise these liberties against power.

VII. "The matter of the lawsuit by Banamex against the journalists Menéndez and Giordano has begun to draw interest in the US. Journalist Cynthia Cotts broke the story in late December in her "Press Clips" column of the prestigious progressive newspaper The Village Voice of New York with the title, "Drug War Goes to Trial." For the columnist, the matter will reveal a lot: It will open a debate on how the media manages information about drug trafficking." (This paragraph is from the column of Carlos Ramírez.)

VIII. But, at the same time, in the Mexican press the issue must open the discussion about liberty of the press, above all when a group encrusted in the Iberoamericana University and its connection with the PAN wants to sharpen the blade of constitutional rights. Before maximizing these liberties they are trying to reduce them, alleging that the media has surpassed its limits. The case of Banamex-Hernández versus the newspaper Por Esto! and Mario R. Menéndez; and the Internet newspaper and Al Giordano, is a question that touches the very heart of constitutional liberties in the United States and in Mexico.

IX. Backed "dilligently, by the facts," with photographs, the investigative report published by the Mexican newspaper is a characteristic work of truthful information. And the critique that appeared in the US publication also obeys the plain exercise of rights that the public has to receive information in another media when it has been hidden intentionally. This is about, above all, drug trafficking and not a story, for example, about sports to be left to publicists.

X. The banker and his network of Salinista-Zedillista-Foxista interests, in place of clearing up the matter, has spun its web around two journalists and two newspapers. But this is about, once and for all, censorship of the freedom of expression of Mario R. Menéndez and Al Giordano, because in New York, less than a year ago, they spoke again about the matter. And the banker, believing himself owner of Banamex and of the United States courts, insists on winning a judgment that he has already lost in advance, if he had only known about the Sullivan-Gertz doctrine. Meanwhile, as Mexican and US journalists, we must unite our voices to expose the attack by Roberto Hernández, who in the name of Banamex, persists in his vengeful conduct over one fact: the truthful information that in the beaches of his Sancho Panza island, on the coast of Quintana Roo, there were landings and launchings of narco-traffickers.


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News about our case is available in Spanish courtesy of Journalists Against Corruption

Articulos cerca de nuestro caso están disponibles en Español cortesía de Periodistas Frente de la Corrupción

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