Mexican journalist Julio Hernández, also known as Julio Astillero. Photo: Google

By KELIN DILLON

While Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) daily morning press conferences at the National Palace have turned into quite the spectacle of his “I’m right, you’re wrong” mentality, perfectly showcased via his weekly lambastment of the country’s most respected publications in the new “Who’s Who in Media Lies of the Week” segment, one journalist came prepared during the Wednesday, July 28, iteration of the event with a perfect rebuttal to the president’s perennial arrogance, along with the facts to back it up. 

After María Luisa Albores González’s presentation of the liars-according-to-AMLO list, and “just a comment” by López Obrador himself doubling down on the “completely immoral attitude” of the media, journalist Julio Hernández, oft known as Julio Astillero, was given the floor and immediately leapt into a fierce and well-deserved defense of himself and his colleagues’ integrity.

Last week, I was accused in the mañanera of lying three times, in a way that felt disproportionate to me, without foundation and without the corresponding journalistic authority for that exercise,” said Hernández. It should be noted that Hernández serves as director of La Jornada, a publication that largely writes in favor of López Obrador compared to other media in Mexico, making AMLO’s accusations against him almost a betrayal.

Evidence in hand, which he likewise provided to the press conference social coordinator to broadcast on the screen, Hernández began listing off the precise facts corresponding to his work from the week before about government officials’ role in the immoral development of the Sierra de San Miguelito, which would infringe on 1,805 hectares of San Luis Potosí’s Area of Protected Natural Reserve (ANP). 

The journalist even called out Secretary of the Environment María Luisa Albores González for claiming she knew nothing about this project, when Hernández had direct quotes of her saying “(the land in San Luis Potosí) is wrapped as a gift for you” to the notorious land developer involved in the controversy, leading to a very public grimace from the official who, unfortunately for her, was present at the moment in the National Palace.

Hernández did not hold back: Armed with quotes, photos, videos and even reading out bank account numbers of those involved for investigation, the journalist squashed all prior comments that his work had been built on a bed of lies as AMLO and García Vilchis had previously accused. 

I want to close this speech by summoning Mrs. Elizabeth García Vilchis to the fact that, as we real journalists do, when one makes a mistake, they recognize it and offer an apology,” closed out Hernández. “Hopefully, and after all this, there will be consistency in a true journalistic exercise and do what corresponds, Mrs. García Vilchis.”

If not, I will continue with legal actions at the national level and before national and international bodies of the union so that upright, honest and critical journalistic practice is not stigmatized and defamed,” he rightfully threatened.

He also called out López Obrador by name for signing a commitment to not develop Sierra de San Miguelito and then still publicly defaming Hernández’s name when the journalist revealed the upcoming environmental infractions. When AMLO said he did not remember what the document he signed said, Hernández pressed, saying “did you sign without knowing?” Which, on brand as ever, López Obrador tried to sidestep.

Though AMLO did his best to deflect the issue onto the presidential administrations before him, Hernández managed to accomplish what few journalists have before in the mañaneras, given the president’s propensity to pivot: getting López Obrador, on record, promising he would not allow the 1,805 hectares in San Luis Potosí’s ANP to be affected.

The two went back and forth, but the winner was clear; Julio Hernández had beaten the president at his own game, much to López Obrador’s chagrin. Though this blow to his ego will certainly only bolster AMLO’s attacks on those who dare challenge him, perhaps Hernández’s peers will now be inspired by their colleague to stand up to the president’s blatant hypocrisy and show who the real, clear liar is when it comes to the mañaneras.

 

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