The media conglomerate that dominates Mexican broadcast television has denied allegations it took money in exchange for raising the profile of Enrique Peña Nieto, the favorite to win the July 1 presidential election.
In a statement, Televisa said an article reporting the allegations - published this week in Britain's The Guardian newspaper - acknowledges that it was impossible to confirm the authenticity of the documents that served as the basis for the article.
Those documents, some of them posted on The Guardian's Web site, appear to show an outline of fees charged by Televisa for favorable news reports and other coverage in 2005 and 2006 of the then-governor of the central state of Mexico and other prominent politicians.
In its statement, Mexico's No. 1 TV network said it did not provide comment to The Guardian correspondent, Jo Tuckman, before the article was published Thursday because it could not "give an opinion on something we know nothing about."
"The lack of journalistic rigor with which (the article) was written is seen in the fact the reporter uses the word 'apparently" eight times, yet this word does not appear in the headline," Televisa said.
(In an update on The Guardian's Web site posted Friday, the headline on the same story reads: "Mexico media scandal: Televisa's alleged collusion with Peña Nieto." The newspaper also posted the alleged "outline of fees," saying the "source who supplied them has now agreed to let us publish them")
Televisa said Tuckman's article acknowledges the documents are the same ones published in 2005 by investigative journalist Jenaro Villamil in Mexico's Proceso magazine, "which the parties have repeatedly disavowed for the past seven years."
The network added that it has contacted the newspaper's executives to demand they conduct "a thorough investigation and offer (the company) a public apology."
For his part, David Lopez Gutierrez, press coordinator for Peña Nieto's campaign, said in a statement that the candidate's Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, has no knowledge of the documents referenced in the article The Guardian published Thursday.
He added that in 2005 and 2006, when Peña Nieto was the governor of Mexico state, no contract of the type mentioned by the daily existed.
"All the communications contracts with respect to the government's activities, as well as their costs, were transparent and are available on the Mexico state government's transparency portal," Lopez Gutierrez said.
The documents to which The Guardian gained access appear to show that Televisa took money in exchange for favorable coverage of prominent politicians on its news and entertainment programs, and used those same spaces to denigrate the leftist who narrowly lost the 2006 presidential election and is running second behind Peña Nieto in this year's contest: Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
"The documents - which consist of dozens of computer files - emerge just weeks ahead of presidential elections on July 1, and coincide with the appearance of an energetic protest movement accusing the Televisa network of manipulating its coverage to favor the leading candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto," the British daily said.
"While it has not been possible to confirm the authenticity of the documents - which were passed to the Guardian by a source who worked with Televisa - extensive cross checks have shown that the names, dates and situations mentioned largely line up with events," the article said.
A protest movement sprung up in Mexico last month after Peña Nieto visited the Universidad Iberoamericana and was jeered by students.
Those in Peña Nieto's inner circle and some members of the media downplayed the incident, accusing the students of being agitators and prompting them to counterattack by making a video that was posted on YouTube.
The criticism led to the birth of the "Somos mas de 131" (We Are More Than 131) movement, which took its name from the number of students who appeared in the video and later evolved into the "Yo soy 132" (I Am 132) movement when students from other universities joined the protests.
Students rallied under the movement's banner on May 18 at the headquarters of Televisa, rejecting Peña Nieto's candidacy and calling for balanced coverage in the media.
In another protest a week later, about 1,000 students from public and private universities marched to Televisa's regional office in the city of Guadalajara to demand "Mas educacion, menos telenovelas" (More Education, Fewer Soap Operas).
The PRI governed Mexico without interruption from 1929-2000, a regime described by Nobel Prize-winning novelist Mario Vargas Llosa as "the perfect dictatorship."
That era ended with the election in 2000 of the conservative National Action Party's Vicente Fox, who was succeeded six years later by party colleague Felipe Calderon after the closest contest in Mexican history.
But the PRI has benefited politically by high levels of drug-related violence in recent years and appears poised to take back the presidency with the telegenic Peña Nieto as its standard-bearer. EFE