MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Wednesday he would denounce any proposed legal reforms that would bring back criminal defamation statutes or other laws that would impinge on the freedom of expression.
López Obrador’s comments came in response to questioning from Denise Dresser, a well-known Mexican journalist, who pressed him to respond to leaked documents from the Attorney General’s Office. The working documents suggested a series of measures that could be used to silence or harass journalists.
“I don’t have anything to do with the supposed reform,” the president said, noting that the Attorney General’s Office is an autonomous entity. But any legal reform would have to go through Mexico’s congress, which is controlled by López Obrador’s allies.
López Obrador promised to not only not support such reforms, but to denounce it.
“Of course, by conviction,” he said. “We have the comittment to guarantee freedom of expression, of the manifestation of ideas, the right to dissent.”
Earlier this month, the Inter-American Press Society expressed concern about reforms “that would turn defamation into a criminal offense, returning the country to an environment where journalists could go to jail for exercising their right to inform, criticize or comment.”
Mexico had decriminalized defamation in 2007.
Dresser raised the question after noting that a Mexico City judge had ordered journalist Sergio Aguayo to pay $24,000 (450,000 pesos) Tuesday to head off the seizure of his assets as part of a lawsuit by former Coahuila state Gov. Humberto Moreira. Moreira sued him over a 2016 article that reported on Moreira’s alleged corruption.
Moreira is the former Institutional Revolutionary Party chief. Moreira resigned as party leader when it was revealed that the Coahuila state debt rose from $27 million to nearly $3 billion during his tenure.