Thousands of students took to the streets in Mexico City yesterday to march against the political bias that they say has infected the national media in the lead-up to the presidential elections on July 1.
This was the second press freedom protest in Mexico's capital in under a week, and simultaneous demonstrations were held thorughout the country. Hailing from a wide range of private and public universities, students congregated on Twitter under the hashtag #YoSoy132. Their common goal, as stated by the movement's website, is the promotion of transparency, plurality and democracy in the Mexican media.
Mexico is among the world's most dangerous countries for journalism, with five journalists murdered since the start of 2012 according to the Knight Centre for Journalism in the Americas.
However, the protesters' stated adversary was not gang-related violence, but partisan manipulation: they claim that the presidential campaign coverage by major newspapers and television networks, and particularly Mexico’s dominant television network, Televisa, has been slanted in favour of frontrunner Enrique Peña Nieto, who has a double-digit lead in the polls. Peña Nieto belongs to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which held power in Mexico for 70 years before being voted out in 2000.
It was the candidate’s speech at the elite Universidad Iberoamericana (UIA) on May 11 that reportedly triggered this series of demonstrations. “By the end of his speech Enrique Peña Nieto had to find an alternate exit because he was locked in a hail between resentful looks and loud boos that echoed through out the University,” wrote UIA graduate and freelance journalist Andrea Arzaba on her personal blog.
Arzaba asserts that the movement began in earnest when Mexican mass media outlets distorted the story of his speech, claiming that the candidate’s visit to UIA was a success, and that those protesting were not students at the University, but rather supporters of rival parties. Students aired their outrage online, posting a YouTube video in which 131 young protestors showed their university ID cards and announced their student numbers to draw attention to the alleged falsification of facts by the mainstream media.
Congregating on Twitter and Facebook under the hashtag #Somos131 (we are 131), tens of thousands took to the streets on Saturday May 18. From this followed a second hashtag #YoSoy132 (I am 132), through which the next wave of protests were organized.
At 6pm yesterday, demonstrators gathered on a street called Paseo de la Reforma (the Passage of Reform) in Mexico City, and began their march through the capitol, which concluded, for many, at the Televisa studios, where Peña Nieto was being interviewed for live television. Neither Televisa nor Peña Nieto’s campaign was willing to comment on the matter, according to the Associated Press.
“We want to be told the truth in this country,” industrial design student Esteban Pacheco told the AP during the protest. “I look at this as a wake-up call.”