Mexican journalist Ricardo Aleman, who won the National Journalism Prize in 2005 and is one of the most important voices in conservative right-wing journalism in the region, was fired by the country's biggest media outlet after appearing to call for the killing of the center-left front runner presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO).
Aleman retweeted an image with the caption “John Lennon was killed by a fan. Versace was killed by a fan. Selena was killed by a fan. It's your turn, chairos,” and tweeted “they're talking to you” to it.
The journalist used the word “chairos” in reference to the supporters, or “fans”, of AMLO, who will most likely win the next presidential elections on July 1.
Chairo is a derogatory expression used in Mexico to disqualify left-wing or progressive people, with no argument behind it. It might have originated from the word “chaira,” a slang term for masturbation, implying that left wing people engage in intellectual self-indulgence with no real political activism.
The Colegio de Mexico, which for decades has collected concepts and expressions in its Mexican Spanish Dictionary, defined chairo as “a person that defends social and political causes against right wing ideologies, but lacks real commitment with that they claim to defend; someone who is self-satisfied with their attitudes.”
Aleman's tweet sparked social media outrage, and users made the hashtag #NoAlPeriodismoSicario (#NoToHitmanJournalism) a national trending topic, condemning his hate speech. He quickly deleted the tweet, but it was too late. Journalists, activists, and even right-wing politicians, such as the independent candidate Margarita Zavala, condemned his comment.
“Yesterday Ricardo Aleman spread a message of a third party inciting violence. Due to the absence of an explicit condemnation, we're forced to end the work relation with the journalist as of today,” reads the press release issued by Televisa, the largest media group in Mexico.
With this press release, Televisa announced the ending of Aleman's show La Mudanza, broadcasted by channel Foro TV.
“Televisa decided to cancel the work relationship with Ricardo Aleman! I don't agree with that but I respect it. Every company has the right to hire anyone who fits its interests! The lynching and censorship won! The Morena democrats!,” tweeted Aleman in response.
Morena is the political party founded by AMLO after he left the center-left Democratic Revolution Party. Aleman has been a long time critic of AMLO and his supporters, calling them close-minded and authoritarian, at the same time he usually criticizes social movements and anything that remotely connected to the Left.
A few weeks ago, Aleman used the word "stupid" to describe the three Mexican film students that were kidnapped and murdered by a drug cartel in the state of Jalisco, blaming them for their own death. He's also a fierce critic of the parents of the 43 students that have been missing since security forces kidnapped them in 2014, saying they have political interests.
But Televisa, a media group aligned with the current government, said press freedom implies a great responsibility, something that Aleman doesn't seem to understand.
In a video posted on his Twitter account, Aleman said his tweet had been misinterpreted, arguing that he was warning about a possible attack against Lopez Obrador, rather than actually calling for it.
He was also let go by Canal 11, where he used to host the show “Political Alarm Clock,” citing the same reasons as Televisa.
But Lopez Obrador, who's already used to smears and accusations from right-wing media outlets, didn't give much importance to the matter.
“There are levels in a mafia: there are the ones on the top, the ones on the bottom, the middle ones and the achichincles [lackeys, minions]... it's not important, nothing is going to happen. Who fights for justice has nothing to fear,” said the candidate.
A Change.org petition asking for every media outlet where Aleman works to fire him is about 400 signatures short of reaching its 50,000 goal.
Only Milenio and Imagen Radio, both right wing outlets, have not fired him.