More journalistic GIGO - garbage in, garbage out
Last week Mexico's sensationalist Proceso News Magazine, a checkout line tabloid rivaling the National Inquirer, published an article implying Mexico's federal government - all the way up to the president himself, perhaps - knew of the kidnapping and execution of 43 college students in Iguala, Guerrero on Sept. 26. in real time, as the brutal events were actually unfolding.
Here is an electronic redaction of that story in Spanish: Iguala: la Historia no Official.
The wild account - thick on icing but almost devoid of cake - was quickly picked up by some in the foreign press, including the always gossipy Huffington Post and the U.K.'s respected and usually reliable The Guardian, which carried the evidence-lacking story under the eye-catching headline, "Mexico authorities ‘knew about attack on students as it happened’."
The only press source to get THE FACTS was the e-page Fusion, which ran this objective analysis Dec. 14. Key excerpts from Fusion's piece:
"Today’s article in Proceso — an investigation by journalists Anabel Hernandez and Steve Fisher, in conjunction with the Program for Investigative Reporting at the University of Berkeley, California — offers a different account of what went down. The investigation claims the state and federal government were also involved in the crime, and the army was complicit. The investigative report, based on interviews, testimonies, cellphone videos, and apparently leaked documents from the government’s investigation, mentions no evidence of Guerreros Unidos involvement. But the report alleges that at least five of the incarcerated gang members were illegally plucked off the streets and tortured before confessing to the crime.
"The reporters would not divulge how they obtained any of the information cited in their investigation, or allow Fusion to review any of their documents.
"An excerpt of the investigative report published Saturday night on Proceso.com claims “the attack was orchestrated and executed by federal police, with the complicity or collaboration of the army.”
"However, two Ayotzinapa student survivors interviewed by Fusion say they didn’t see any Federal Police involved in the attacks.
"The Proceso investigation found no indication that the military was directly involved in any of the shootings, but found evidence to suggest the regional army command was aware of what was happening at the time" (i.e., because law enforcement authorities in the area - local, state and federal - frequently share radio channels and frequencies).
"The journalistic investigation suggests that the way the events unfolded, and the degree of specialized training witnessed in the attacks, indicates it was a professional operation above the paygrade of the municipal police who took the fall for the crime," concluded Fusion - which did not remotely assess responsibility for the Iguala massacre to anyone in the federal government, at any level.
Today Mexico's ambassador to the United Kingdom delivered this justifiably terse response to The Guardian.
Your story (Mexico authorities knew about attack on students as it happened, 16 December) does not reflect the reality of the disappearance of 43 students in the Mexican state of Guerrero and the ongoing investigations around this event. Without any other source of information than a story published in a Mexican magazine . . . The Guardian admits that it has not been able to verify not only the alleged leaked government documents but the magazine’s account.
The Mexican government is committed to a thorough transparent investigation, with the findings double-checked and assessed by different NGOs, independent groups and experts.
Diego Gomez Pickering
Ambassador of Mexico to the UK
Editor's note: Perhaps Proceso's imaginative, tabloid tale will be an object lesson for the J-School students at Berkeley, Calif. on how not to research and write a story. The rest of the world will be scrutinizing every word.
© MGR 2014. All rights reserved. This article may be cited or briefly quoted with proper attribution or a hyperlink, but not reproduced or rewritten without permission.