Zócalo magazine distribution blocked

A magazine wholesaler owned by media giant Televisa suspended August delivery of the monthly Zócalo magazine following critical coverage of Televisa’s key role in the July 1 presidential election.

Distribution company Intermex failed to supply copies of issue 150 to more than 160 branches of the Sanborn’s chain of stores, a major magazine retailer. The apparent circulation boycott affected sales of an edition whose cover story focused on the political power of Televisa, the magazine’s editors noted to Reporters Without Borders.

“Failure to distribute is a form of censorship,” the press freedom organization said. “Unfortunately, this is not the first recent case.” During the vote-counting period in July, the organization said, two editions of the weekly Proceso were not distributed to kiosks of the Soriana chain, which had reportedly played a role in alleged electoral fraud on behalf of the Revolutionary Institutional Party – the PRI – whose candidate was declared the winner. Enrique Peña Nieto is scheduled to take office on 1 December.

Reporters Without Borders demanded that the undistributed copies be returned to Zócalo, and that the magazine be compensated for lost sales.

The organization also called for an independent investigation into the blocked magazine deliveries. “If Televisa is found definitively to have played a role, these actions would amount to a violation of the Mexican constitution,” the organization said. “Have we returned, even before 1 December, to the time of ‘perfect dictatorship,’ when the ruling party and its economic allies decided which publications could be distributed?”

Zócalo editor Carlos Padilla said he had no doubt that the blocked distribution episodes were a response to critical coverage of the country’s television “duopoly” of Televisa and TV Azteca. Specifically, he tied the non-distribution move to the magazine’s August cover story, “Does television elect presidents?” The cover image was a version of the Televisa logo in the form of a dinosaur egg, with the emerging silhouette of winning candidate Peña Nieto. “Proceso previously had illustrated its reporting with the Televisa logo wrapped in the presidential sash,” Padilla noted.

Responding to complaints from readers who had been unable to buy the August edition of Zócalo at Sanborn’s, the magazine’s editors learned from the retail chain that Intermex had never delivered the magazine. Intermex then announced that its contract with Sanborn’s had ended, a statement that the retail chain denied.

On 27 August, Zócalo made a formal demand to Francisco Sánchez, sales director of Intermex, that copies of the edition held in the company’s warehouses since 6 August be returned to the magazine. As of 31 August, the company had not replied. On that day, the country’s electoral tribunal officially certified the results of the July 1 election.