A lot of people are bothered by what they consider an over-emphasis by the press— domestic and foreign— on crime and violence.
Government and business honchos think the media has an obsession with narcos and cadavers, and it’s scaring away investment, tourists and economic growth (though at the same time they publicly insist it isn’t).
The press, it’s implied, should worry less about attracting readers and viewers and more about the best interests of the nation.
That’s always been the official preference, and not so long ago they got their way. The desire was never legitimate. The news media’s function is to inform, even when the information makes the country look bad.
That said, the press is surely exploiting the nation’s bloody reality for reasons political (it can make ideological adversaries look bad) and remunerative (if it bleeds it leads because it sells). Which is nothing to be proud of, but it beats the alternative of editorially airbrushing the violence. The best interest of the nation in the long run can be unpleasant today.
The official concern about the coverage, which President Peña Nieto lamented Friday was “stigmatizing” Mexico, may go deeper than the obvious.
This morning’s lead story in El Universal, running under the headline “Insecurity will limit reforms: OECD warns,” is based on an interview with a top Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development official. It’s probably closer to the millionth time than the first time that we’ve heard about crime and corruption threatening the success of the energy, telecommunications and other economic reforms that are supposed to move Mexico forward. And the administration cringes every time.
The interview suggested to El Universal that the situation reflects poorly not only on the fate of the reforms but on the entire neoliberal project undertaken in Mexico since the 1980s. “This is what happens when the market is liberalized without public controls,” El U writes in an editorial, adding later, “The result is inefficiency in both the public and private sectors that inhibits the free market.”
From the administration’s point of view then — indeed from much of the governing class’s point of view, in power or not — the current unrest isn’t just slowing progress. It’s threatening the very foundation of their national project.