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Mexican Standoff

(AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)
The Mexican presidential election was close. Real close. So close, in fact, that in the aftermath many in the media suggested that a replay of the 2000 US presidential election was in the making. But there was at least one key difference: Whereas the American media were overeager to call the 2000 election, most notably in Florida, the Mexican media held off in calling this one. Not that the apparent restraint had the people singing the praises of the press. As Latin American correspondent Dan Grech and Bob Garfield discussed on "On The Media" (no transcript 'til Wednesday – you'll have to listen), there was debate in Mexico about whether not calling the election was really a journalistic decision, or if it was actually all about politics.

As we've discussed before, Mexico has strict laws against disseminating opinion polls or campaign commercials in the run-up to an election, strict enough that Fox News decided to go off the air in the country until after the polls closed. There was a media blackout regarding the outcome from Wednesday at midnight until 8 pm Sunday, at which time Mexico's Federal Electoral Institute announced that the race was too close to call…and to check back in three hours. Grech, knowing he was in for a long night, decided to nap. When he checked back in at 11, the news was the same – we don't know yet. In the intervening three hours, no media outlets said anything substantial about the results, sticking to the line that it was just too close.

It looked like an impressive incidence of restraint on the part of the press. But Mexicans don't much trust their media, with many believing that many media outlets are in the pocket of the ruling party. Grech told Garfield that every single political commentator he spoke to said not announcing the results was a political decision that "reflects a lack of courage on the part of the local media down here." The commentators lamented the fact that media outlets published "only the government's polls rather than their independent poll data."

Listen to the On The Media story and decide for yourself. (Grech, for his part, believes that the outlets acted out of journalistic responsibility.) Regardless of what went down south of the border, it's worth remembering that Mexican journalists have shown impressive courage before.