MEXICO CITY -- It's been nearly a month since Carmen Aristegui, Mexico's most famous journalist, was fired from her radio program after investigating the first lady's real estate, but her prominent colleagues have not stopped rallying to her cause.
On Wednesday, a group of journalists and academics argued that her firing amounted to violating the rights of the Mexican audience's access to information, and said they are starting a legal process to try to get her reinstated to her popular morning program.
Denise Dresser, a prominent Mexican columnist and professor, said that it was "unacceptable in a democracy" that a company given a government concession for news content "censors and controls the content that the audience receives."
"And that's why we ask today that the citizens who are aware of their rights be willing to fight for them and join together," Dresser said at a news conference in Mexico City.
The group said they were encouraging supporters to file legal complaints based on a telecommunications law that protects the rights of audiences. But at the same time, they acknowledged that their petitions and the "amparo," a Mexican legal procedure intended to defend human rights, was largely a symbolic gesture to rally public support for Aristegui's cause.
"It's a symbolic way to protest in front of the institutions" and mobilize people, said Lorenzo Meyer, a well-known Mexican historian. "To have an informed citizenry gives power to the people."
Since the firing last month of Aristegui and her investigative team by MVS Communications, the issue has become an intense political issue in Mexico, and a blow to the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto.
The proximate cause of Aristegui's firing last month was her participation in MexicoLeaks, a new Web site modeled after Wikileaks intended to solicit secret documents about government corruption. MVS said that her involvement was done without their knowledge and they fired two members of her team. When she demanded their reinstatement, and disagreed with conditions imposed on her reporters, she was fired as well and her team disbanded.
But Aristegui and her supporters believed the real reason she was ousted had to do with her aggressive reporting on Peña Nieto's government. Last year, Aristegui's team found that the first lady, Angelica Rivera, had a luxurious white house built for her by a company who had received millions of dollars in government contracts from Peña Nieto when he was governor of Mexico state. The Mexican "White House" scandal later grew when a similar arrangement was discovered between the company and the finance minister. Aristegui last month told Proceso newsmagazine that when it came to her firing, "all roads lead to the White House."
A spokesman for MVS was not immediately available for comment.
The subtext surrounding much of the anxiety inspired by Aristegui's case is a fear that Mexico is returning to its more authoritarian past. After a 12-year hiatus, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (know as the PRI), returned to power in 2012, and with it memories of its seven-decade stranglehold on Mexican power, and its penchant for media censorship, back-room deals and intimidation of media companies.
The loss of Aristegui is important, Meyer said, because "it was one of the few spaces where they discussed what was important and relevant."
"In reality, they are cutting the most important space where citizens can have access, Monday through Friday, to the most important news, and to criticism," he said. "This system needs criticism."