~ This column was originally published on Cuadernos Doble Raya on January 11, 2016 ~
On Saturday, January 9, while the whole world read, reread, and read again the interview that Kate del Castillo and Sean Penn conducted with Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán Loera, another story circulated more quietly on social networks. It was from a reporter from the newspaper Noroeste named Carlos López who told how Televisa television host Carlos Loret de Mola obtained the exclusive story of how the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel had been recaptured.
“Just as happened in February of 2014 at the Miramar de Mazatlán condominium (where El Chapo was captured)…the Ministry of the Marines staged (again) a special show in Los Mochis so that the Televisa host could recount El Chapo’s flight and supposed capture by the Marines.”
According to the Noroeste account, Loret “arrived at the house in the Las Palmas neighborhood in a Chevrolet Suburban, guarded by members of the Navy,” and the house that was El Chapo’s last hideout was rapidly cordoned off to prevent representatives of other news outlets—who had been keeping vigil at the site since Thursday–from entering.
The reporter tells how, outside that federal barrier, dozens of local, national, and international journalists tried to get a good picture, when an officer quickly approached to inform them: “You cannot pass, our orders are to support Televisa, to assist them and show El Chapo’s escape route; we will give everyone else the tour on Monday.”
Loret was in the safe house from which Guzmán Loera escaped for three hours and then left “guarded by 20 Marines.” From there, he went to the motel Doux, where he had every advantage in continuing to report his story. El Debate, another local paper, also reported that while various outlets were attempting to enter room #51—where the photo of a handcuffed El Chapo wearing the now famous undershirt was taken—they were unable to do so.
Loret de Mola, on the other hand, arrived at the motel with his caravan, “including two carfuls of Marines who guarded him front and back, and filmed every last corner of the room.”
The journalist and his team were at the motel for around 15 minutes; after exhaustive reporting they headed to the El Farallón restaurant, “an expensive and exclusive venue in Los Mochis” to eat.
Ok. Leaving aside the questions of journalistic ethics in the case. Leaving aside the “exclusives” that reveal the Televisa-Government conspiracy. Leaving aside the spectacle of Loret de Mola and his team. Leaving aside the circus and the “new official truth” that will arrive at the homes of millions of Mexicans through the country’s most powerful broadcaster. Leaving aside, for the moment, all of that, what should be clear for all citizens is that this journalistic coverage is, by all lights, an illegal one.
Can you imagine, for example, the German Marines guarding, granting access, and helping a journalist from RTL Television to break an exclusive story from a crime scene? Can you imagine a reporter from TeleFrance 1 being guarded by 20 members of the French Army as they travel up and down a city without it seeming to anyone in the least grotesque? Can you imagine elements of the Royal Navy obstructing the right to information of hundreds of outlets in favor of a single one, be it the BBC (public) or ITV (private)? Can you imagine a star reporter from Televisión Española (TVE) having exclusive access to a crime scene based on the decision of a handful of soldiers? Since when in Mexico is it the armed forces’ authority to decide on the right to information? Does Enrique Peña Nieto’s government and Televisa realize that, beyond the pathetic image that these actions present to the world, that they are totally illegal as well?
I discussed this with a lawyer who sees it very clearly: this collection of actions are simply and fully outside of the law. First, because the crime scene was infringed upon during the process of the initial evidence collection, the principal characteristic of which is supposed to be secrecy; as such, only the authorities tasked with constructing the investigation are authorized to enter; otherwise, the evidence is altered. Secondly, once the scene is allowed to be altered, it represented a violation of the right to information of Mexican citizens, since the Ministry of the Marines clearly obstructed others in favor of a single outlet (the report noted that outside El Chapo’s last hideout were representatives of all the national media and some international outlets such as El País, The New York Times, and The Guardian). Finally, and equally disturbing is the fact that included in the mission and function of the armed forces is not the task of accompanying or guarding a journalist during media coverage; and much less using for other purposes the public resources that should be utilized for protecting national territory.
Effectively, in reviewing the Founding Law of the Mexican Navy and its regulations, I never found amid the 16 responsibilities conferred upon it, that of guarding television hosts during their journalistic labors. The Mexican Navy is a National Military Institution that has the mission of employing the naval power of the country for external defense and assisting in domestic security. It has the task, for example, of carrying out activities to protect the nation’s sovereignty and defend the integrity of national territory in territorial waters, the littoral zone, islands, cays, reefs, and continental shelf; as well as in interior waters, lakes, and rivers. So then: is it that Televisa is part of the national sovereignty and we simply have not realized it?
Karla Casillas is a reporter, commentator, and editor in Mexico City. This essay was originally published on the site cuadernosdobleraya.com on January 11, under the title “Crónica de una #coberturailegal” and is available at: http://cuadernosdobleraya.com/2016/01/11/cronica-de-una-coberturailegal/
Translation by Michael Lettieri, Trans-Border Institute