Libertad Bajo Palabra: Censorship, Satire, and the Press in Mexico
April 30 – May 2, 2014
Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies, U.C. San Diego
If a free press and a free society go hand in hand, by most accounts for most of its recent history Mexico has had neither. During the twentieth century, as the story goes, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) famously developed a panoply of tactics to produce a docile press, balancing the carrots of lucrative government advertising and cash-stuffed envelopes slipped to journalists against the cudgels of censorship and the lurking threat of violence. Most commentators tend to think of the twentieth-century Mexican press as something of a journalistic eunuch, self-censoring and obediently toeing the party line. In recent years, almost endemic violence against journalists reporting on the drug trade has seemingly darkened the outlook for Mexico’s press. Looking beyond the headlines of Mexico City’s major papers, however, it has become increasingly clear that the relationship between the government, the press, and the public was and is far more complex than previously thought and that the challenges facing journalists today are being met with courage and innovation. This conference brings together papers that will enrich our understanding of both the past and the present of Mexican journalism, from the experience of the PRI regime to the process of democratization and the contemporary specter of narcoviolence. Contributors will explore how the press has functioned as a more open space for critique than commonly believed, examining the codes, negotiations, and strategies that have enabled open expression, as well as offering new discussions of the nuanced mechanisms of official control and censorship. Bringing together academics and journalists from both sides of the border, this conference seeks to expand our understanding of what a free press has meant to Mexico during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.