The price of the truth

The trial against Genaro García Luna, former Secretary of Public Security during the government of PAN Felipe de Jesús Calderón Hinojosa, which is taking place in New York City, in addition to exhibiting the alleged links between formal and factual powers, between politicians and criminals, also severely questions the role of many media outlets as pliable accomplices in the perverse construction of a narrative that favors the government and participants in the corruption that overlaps with omissions, distortions, and silence on delicate matters of public interest. , in exchange for juicy salaries or businesses linked to public institutions and money from the treasury.

Although dogs and wolves look a lot alike, they don’t hang out together. And although the interests and actions of troop journalists are often confused with the behaviors and decisions of managers and owners of the media, they do not walk the same path and in most cases are in permanent conflict, between those who they censor, inhibit, threaten and punish those who defend their freedom of expression and the right of society to be well informed.

There are recurring, cyclical, disturbing questions in the journalistic profession: Is journalism in crisis? Is a profession worthwhile whose rewards are mainly symbolic in recognition of the transcendental social work carried out by journalists and the media that conduct themselves with professionalism, honesty and courage, but are ungrateful in the labor and salary aspects?

Does a profession determined by its labor and salary precariousness make sense, whose minimum income by law is appraised, by 2023, at 13,935 pesos per month and represents an annual amount of 167,223 pesos?

Strict compliance with duties does not imply relevant or extraordinary merit, which requires any recognition. When assuming the vocational and ethical imperatives of his profession, the journalist should only aspire to the recognition of the social utility of his work, committed to the truth, which is reaffirmed and legitimized daily by its independence, rigor, veracity, honesty and courage, beyond commemorations, tributes, prizes or recognitions, even assuming that these are expressed in a sincere and disinterested manner.

Journalism is, by its very nature, eminently critical, as well as rigorous and tenacious in its search for the truth, to shed light on the dark corners of public life. Committed to the people in the preservation of superior values, it contributes to a healthy democratic and republican life.

Freedom of expression and the right to information are not negotiated: they are demanded, conquered, exercised and defended, even with life itself, if necessary. A journalist is not an academic or an intellectual, nor does he aspire to scholarship; he is guided by the impulses of his heart and his conscience. His task is more determined by doubts than by certainties.

There are formal and factual powers that seek to violate these rights, because they know or intuit that the fragility of a media system subdued by economic interests, threats, threats, demands or physical and even fatal attacks, strengthens a regime of privileges, in which there is no place for the poor, the helpless and the marginalized, because in the shadows and in ignorance the most despicable abuses and the most aggravating impunity are incubated.

The reality is stark and terribly simple: faced with harassment, threats and attacks by formal or de facto powers closely linked in defense of their privileges, which violate the right to information and freedom of expression, journalists who they work at the service of the truth and of the people, they are alone.

No authority, not even their own companies, will defend them in a country where the rule of law is very fragile and where justice is fractured, subject to the forces of the market, money, corruption and violence. Journalists only have the shelter and generous support of society, their readers, their audiences.

There are plenty of public officials, from all levels of government, who call the heads of information or newsrooms, editors, managers and the owners of the media -press, radio, television and now digital- to complain about the rebellious journalists who do not applaud and are corrosively critical of the light, abusive or corrupt conduct of those powerful circumstantial parasitically entrenched in wide spaces of public life.

Many of those officials who publicly sympathize with the ills that afflict journalists are the same ones who threaten or threaten journalists with physical assault, legal action or even murder, if they do not shut their mouths and stop publishing what is so it bothers them.

The hypocritical brotherhood that from power claims to defend freedom of expression is very broad, while putting a price on the heads of uncomfortable journalists and offering juicy advertising guidelines to submissive, ductile media, with very dubious ethics and editorial quality, inefficient , who live subsidized by public money, because they are unable to generate legitimate income that makes them sustainable, independent and free.

The journalist investigates, sustains, argues, observes public affairs with deep curiosity, lifting the veil in opaque or gloomy spaces and bringing light to the darkest corners, where the vermin that poison public life and rot it take refuge.

The journalist has the right to decent, decent working and salary conditions that guarantee personal and family security, to meet basic survival needs and resist the temptations of powers, of the most diverse nature, that seduce and corrupt with the intention of inhibiting or conjure up the best fruits of a profession that by its very nature must be eminently ethical, critical, independent and free, even though the risk of suffering even extreme threats is implicit in this.

However, the reality is very different and sometimes cruel. A large segment of the journalistic union survives in precarious working and salary conditions, and in some cases, infamous.

It is common for journalists to work for fees, in a labor regime unrelated to any guarantee or possibility of legal claim, without the right to health services, savings and retirement funds, bonuses or minimum compensation that guarantees a decent level of well-being. and certainty.

The journalist is also exposed to hiring through intermediaries (outsourcing), which hides essential labor and human rights, while favoring the advantages of the bosses.

The journalist can just as well resign himself to the precariousness of those who work independently and carry out work autonomously, without bosses, but also without guarantees, almost always exposed to the good will or petty manipulation of their good, regular or bad circumstantial employers.

The quality of a democracy is proportional to the quality of its media system.

A system of self-sustaining, independent media, that can aspire to fully exercise their freedom, nourishes and strengthens society, generating informative content for comprehension and understanding.

The new communication and journalism platforms offer a perspective of profound change, in which government advertising would cease to be the determining factor for the survival or collapse of a communication medium, which could look for opportunities in new business models. to be self-sustaining, independent and free in the exercise of their professional duties, in favor of the truth and the interests of their readers and audiences.

In the preamble to the most profound change in history in the media and journalism, this is the complex scenario that society, journalists and the media committed to people face every day. No one said that the fight to build a better world was easy, because it never has been.

There are circumstances that are cyclical in the history of humanity. Upon receiving the Nobel Prize for literature, Albert Camus delivered his acceptance speech for such distinguished recognition, in Stockholm, Sweden, on December 10, 1957 and his words, from 66 years ago, are still valid.

Camus reflected: “Undoubtedly, each generation believes it is destined to remake the world. Mine knows, however, that she will not be able to do it. But his task is perhaps greater. It is to prevent the world from unraveling”.

“Heiress of a corrupted history —in which failed revolutions, crazed techniques, dead gods, and exhausted ideologies are mixed; in which mediocre powers, which today can destroy everything, do not know how to convince; in which intelligence humbles itself to the point of placing itself at the service of hatred and oppression—, this generation has had to, in itself and around it, restore, starting from bitter concerns, a little of what constitutes the dignity of living and of die”, added the famous writer.

“Faced with a world threatened with disintegration, in which our grand inquisitors risk establishing forever the empire of death, he knows that he should, in a kind of mad race against time, restore between nations a peace that not be that of servitude, to reconcile work and culture again, and to rebuild with all men a new Ark of the Covenant”, proposed Camus.

“It is not certain that this generation will finally be able to accomplish this immense task, but the truth is that, everywhere in the world, it has already done, and continues to do so, its double bet in favor of truth and freedom and that, When the time comes, he knows how to die without hate for her. It is this generation that must be greeted and encouraged wherever they are and, above all, where they sacrifice themselves”, concludes the quote from Albert Camus.

In these dark and rogue times, of lost and unrecognizable ideologies, the professional, intelligent, serene and courageous work of journalists is essential, so that people can aspire to know the truth about the facts and circumstances that affect their daily lives. .

Pedro Mellado Rodriguez

Journalist who for more than four decades has been a diligent and critical observer of public life in the country. He has covered all information sources and has held all possible responsibilities in the media. His column Puntos y Contrapuntos de él has been published for more than three decades, in newspapers such as El Occidental, Siglo 21 and Mural, in Guadalajara, Jalisco. He is a journalism professor at ITESO, the Jesuit University of Guadalajara.

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