A friend once caustically commented to me that the tenor of the Indymedia coverage streaming out of Oaxaca last fall was making him look like a hardened right winger due to his moderate views and less-than-favorable opinion of the actors in the unrest that consumed his city last fall. (Indymedia coverage was decidedly on the side of those battling the embattled governor.)
Indymedia - more specifically, The Narco News Bulletin- are now at it again, this time tossing dirt on the grave of former Associated Press stringer Rebeca Romero, who critics accuse of bias and exaggeration - a truly curious charge considering Indymedia's lionizing of left-wing radicals.
Perhaps Romero's biggest sin - and the one Narco News found most objectionable - was that her small Oaxaca news agency accepted government advertising. (The Oaxaca conflict pitted striking teachers and a leftist group dubbed APPO against thuggish and corrupt PRI governor Ulises Ruiz.) Taking government advertising, according to Narco News, violated the AP stringer agreement. And on the surface, it taints Romero's coverage.
Now as someone who has previously, but no longer, worked as an occasional AP stringer, there are rules and the company, in my experience, was diligent about checking our backgrounds and how we were earning our livelihoods. Attacking AP is quite frankly stupid.
As for Romero taking government advertising money, it would be a lot more remarkable in Mexico if she refused to take such funds. Governments at all levels here run an endless stream of ads, boasting all sorts of dubious accomplishments and ambitions. What I'm saying is her actions are not especially unusual in this country. But don't expect Indymedia to point that out.
As I suspected, comments left here have both been anonymous and sympathetic to APPO. I published the comments - hit-and-run style comments - since I'm not going anywhere and hey, perhaps I'll be next on somebody's threat list.
First, let's start by saying that if Rebeca Romero violated the AP's rules, then obviously they should take action. But having Narco News pompously take issue with her supposed bias is absolutely absurd. The hagiographical portraits of groups like APPO and the EZLN coming out of some "media" outlets are downright silly. Two colleagues, both sympathetic to the EZLN, covered the otra compana and produced a story full of quotes from supporters lamenting things like "witnessing a dead movement."
Sergio Sarmiento - not a supporter of left-wing causes - pointed out in a column that some of those involved with APPO used to receive money from the Oaxaca state government, but the funds were axed by Ulises Ruiz. Why is he the only one pointing this out?
Ultimately - and this bugs me more than anything else about the Oaxaca coverage - everything is being presented as good vs. evil. APPO = good and Ruiz = bad. How about seeing some shades of gray? Ruiz is bad. (Perhaps evil is a better word.) But does that make APPO the good guy?
Writing in BeyondChron.com, Barbara Lopez, who grew up in Oaxaca, said of APPO:
While there are very positive elements to APPO such as the Indigenous rights group and NGO’s, APPO has also included very violent elements such as anarchists from the U.S., Mexico City, and Puebla and many street children and drug users who are rightfully angry, but whose actions have hurt the movement.
I did not meet a single Oaxacan who hasn’t had a violent confrontation with APPO – except for those very involved. My cousin, a single mother who lives near the television station, was told by a group of drunken “APPO leaders” to provide food and money or they would harm her and her children. The same group dictated to her when she could leave the house or not.
My aunt who owns a restaurant downtown was forced to give $22,000 pesos or her restaurant would be burned down. My uncle was stoned in his car because he had government plates (ironically he has them just so he can sell trinkets in the airport). Our housekeeper was also coerced into giving whatever money she had and a bus was burned in front of her house, scaring her and her family.
People we talked to at the bus corner spoke about wanting peace again while the APPO-controlled radio stations called for violence in the streets. The streets are covered in graffiti, including the 400-year-old churches made of green stone that cannot remove graffiti. This is not what a social movement should look like because violence only further divides a town, usually affects the poorest members of society, and brings on a stronger repression.
I'm checking out of this mess. It's just bizarre. Teachers go on strike for the 25th consecutive year - and are lauded as heroes. APPO protests cripple the state's tourism-based economy, but they're supposedly the good guys. Ruiz acts like a troglodyte and ... he deserves all of his bad press. Adios to this subject.