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Fired Mexican News Anchor Asks For Her Job Back, Executives Reply ‘Good Luck’

Carmen Aristegui wanted to return to her slot exposing government corruption, but MVS Communications shot back, saying the relationship was over, permanently.

by Daniel Hernandez and Andrea Noel
Mar 20 2015, 10:20pm

Photo by Eduardo Verdugo/AP

The fired Mexican news anchor who accused the government of orchestrating her dismissal from a top-rated morning radio show asked Thursday to get back to work. But news executives at MVS Communications shot back immediately, saying the relationship with Carmen Aristegui was over — for good.

"Our relationship has ended," MVS vice president Felipe Chao said in a press conference called hurriedly at 9 pm. "We wish you good luck."

MVS officials maintained that two of Aristegui's top investigative reporters were dismissed on March 12 for affiliating their "brand" with a newly launched whistleblower site called Mexicoleaks, without authorization.

But Aristegui, who is called the second most powerful woman in Mexico by Forbes, claimed once more that the spat with MVS executives was a result of her team's investigation into an undeclared multi-million dollar property linked to President Enrique Peña Nieto and his family.

The scandal over the so-called "Casa Blanca" has marred the carefully built positive sheen on Peña Nieto's administration just two years into his six-year term.

Since Aristegui's firing on Sunday, the dispute between the country's top-rated morning radio show and its owners has filled headlines in Mexico.

Adding to the media drama, other reporters from Aristegui's staff said Thursday they were also fired — saying their cell phones and press badges were taken away — but MVS executives said at least one of the reporters still had a job.

Related: Dismissal of News Anchor in Mexico: A Return to 'Bad Old Days' of Media Control?

Two supporters stand outside a canceled press conference with Carmen Aristegui in downtown Mexico City. (Photo by Daniel Hernandez)

Aristegui supporters said she was being censored for her hard-hitting reporting style amid what they called an "authoritarian" bent in the country's political and media leaders.

Ana Maria Hernandez, a woman who stood with a sign in support of Aristegui outside the Museum of Tolerance in downtown Mexico City, said that losing the journalist's morning broadcast violated her "human right to information."

"Mexico criminalizes protest and now criminalizes our access to information," Hernandez told VICE News.

A scheduled news conference for Aristegui at the museum had to be canceled after the venue was overwhelmed with press and devoted listeners. "Love live investigative journalism!" some shouted in the crowd.

Nearly all on-air television broadcasting in Mexico is controlled by either Televisa or TV Azteca, media juggernauts with close ties to the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. Aristegui's Primera Emisión program often focused on cases of abuse, waste, and corruption at all levels of Mexico's government.

Last year, for example, Aristegui's team uncovered a prostitution ring inside the headquarters of the Mexico City branch of the PRI.

An Aristegui reporter — who remains anonymous to this day — went undercover as an applicant for a job as an aide to the PRI party boss in the capital. The reporter discovered applicants were told they would be having on-demand sex with party leader Cuauhtémoc Gutierrez.

The detail was significant in an atmosphere where it seems powerful people in Mexico protect one another freely.

But others have criticized Aristegui and her handling of the dispute.

Over the weekend she made an ultimatum that the two reporters fired over the Mexicoleaks affiliation — Daniel Lizárraga and Irving Huerta — be reinstated. 

Huerta, in an interview on Friday with VICE News, said that MVS officials weren't notified about the Mexicoleaks affiliation because the investigative reporters' unit had entered similar agreements before, without any issue arising with management.

MVS responded to Aristegui's ultimatum by firing her. She's also speculated about a conspiracy behind her firing, without elaborating.

The journalist took to a streaming video to declare that she was requesting a meeting with MVS executives for Monday, in the hopes of getting her job back. Aristegui spoke during a live streaming video that attracted more than 80,000 viewers at its peak.

"Who the hell is behind all of this?" Aristegui asked, adding that the "violent manner" in which her show was canceled "makes one think that someone was truly angry, that someone was looking for some kind of revenge … in response to our work."

When asked by viewers on social media if the order for her team's dismissal came from Los Pinos, the president's official residence, she said: "Everything seems to indicate so."

"I can't imagine something of this magnitude without some sort of consent from the highest presidential power," Aristegui said.

Related: Mexico's President and First Lady Face Scandal Over Lavish 'White House' Mansion.

Sebastian Barragan, left, and Irving Huerta, two of the investigative reporters dismissed by MVS Communications. (Photo by Francisco Gomez/VICE Mexico)

An hour after Aristegui's video, MVS vice president for institutional relations, Felipe Chao, called a press conference to respond.

MVS attempted to quell the allegation that the mansion investigation was linked to the group's firing, by saying on air that a central author of the "Casa Blanca" report, Rafael Cabrera, is still employed by MVS. That proved that the investigation was not the cause of dismissal, Chao said.

Rafael Cabrera replied online, and users picked up the hashtag #MVSMiente, Spanish for "MVS lies."

"I have been fired since Monday, March 16," Cabrera tweeted, seconds after the statement was made on air. "MVS shouldn't lie."

Felipe Chao, media reports pointed out, happens to be a brother of Andres Chao, Mexico's undersecretary for media regulations, who was appointed to the post last May, with the goal of strengthening ties to media outlets.

The detail was significant in an atmosphere where it seems powerful people in Mexico protect one another freely.

For example, despite the evidence Aristegui's team displayed about the PRI prostitution ring, no charges have been filed against Mexico City party boss Cuauhtémoc Gutierrez.

Huerta and Sebastian Barragan, two of the four core members of Aristegui's investigative unit who were fired, told VICE News Friday they were determined to stick together, and hopefully get back to finishing several open journalistic investigations.

"We're still in this dynamic," said Barragan, 28. "We don't know what's going to happen, but in the meantime, we'll keep operating."

Concluding her statement Thursday evening, Aristegui said she would keep fighting for her space on MVS.

"This battle that we are fighting, let there be no doubt, it is for freedom of expression, and for the rights of our audience," Aristegui said.

Related: Mexico's President Appoints a 'Friend' as His New Anti-Corruption Chief.

Follow Daniel Hernandez and Andrea Noel on Twitter @longdrivesouth and @MetabolizedJunk.