Andrés Manuel López Obrador
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaks during a news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City. Reuters

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador defended on Friday his decision to publicly disclose the telephone number of a New York Times correspondent. This came after the correspondent published an article on a suspended U.S. investigation into alleged money transfers from drug cartel operatives to Mexican officials during the current administration.

"No, not at all," said López Obrador (known as AMLO) in a heated debate with Univision's reporter, Jessica Zermeño, who asked him if it was a mistake to disclose a colleague's private data during the president's morning conference on Friday (Feb. 23).

"Would you disclose a private telephone number of one of us?" Zermeño insisted during today's media conference.

"Sure, sure, when it is a matter in which the dignity of the president of Mexico is at stake," responded AMLO.

Zermeño pressed further, "And what do we do with the Transparency Law, sir?"

AMLO replied, "No, above that law is the moral authority and the political authority. I represent a country, I represent a people who deserve respect."

AMLO then expressed his view on critical reporters in Mexico, saying: "You guys feel hand-embroidered, like a divine, privileged caste. You can slander with impunity, as you have done with us, and one cannot touch them with the petal of a rose."

The president insisted that Natalie Kitroeff, the New York Times Mexico bureau chief, slandered and accused him in her report on a U.S. law-enforcement officials' investigation into alleged money handouts to officials and aides during his current administration.

Prior to the publication of the article on Thursday afternoon, AMLO read a letter at his morning conference that Kirstoeff sent to him, asking for his comments on the allegations of money transfers by an organized crime group. During that conference, AMLO publicly disclosed Kitroeff's phone number, both on a slide and verbally.

In the afternoon, the National Institute for Access to Information and Protection of Personal Data (INAI) announced that it would launch an investigation into the disclosure of Kirstoeff's phone number.

The controversy comes weeks after a leak of journalists' personal data held by the Mexican government, triggering alarm among media rights activists in one of the world's most dangerous countries for the press. The New York Times described the incident as 'a troubling and unacceptable tactic from a world leader at a time when threats against journalists are on the rise.'

In a post on X, Jan-Albert Hootsen, Mexico representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), stated that López Obrador's stance in downplaying the seriousness of disclosing Kitroeff's phone number is 'deeply disappointing and concerning.'

Earlier, Hootsen had remarked that AMLO committed an act similar to doxxing, which 'is illegal under Mexican privacy laws and puts reporters at risk.'

In his Friday conference, AMLO recommended to Kitroeff: 'Well, maybe you'd better change your phone number.'"

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