Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Chess Players....El Mundo

El Mundo has been the newspaper that has done most to attempt to sow doubt about the events surrounding the bombings. Once the change of government from the Partido Popular (PP) to the Spanish Socialist party (PSOE) took place in 2004, El Mundo began to publish articles which have attempted to cast doubt on the judicial investigation and the authorship of the attack. It is the second biggest selling newspaper in Spain after El País, and in the past had a reputation as being a progressive, even left of centre paper. It also had a reputation for investigative journalism, most notably in the case of the GAL, the government sponsored death squads that set about eliminating activists close to ETA in the 1980’s. Over the last few years however, the political orientation of the paper has clearly changed with a significant shift towards more right wing positions.

The motives of the newspaper in the case of the Madrid bombings are arguable. There are those who believe it is mainly commercial as El Mundo seeks to hold back the general decline in sales of printed newspapers by taking readers from its main rivals. Others see more personal or political motivations on the part of the paper’s powerful director, Pedro J Ramirez. It is quite possible that all of the above factors play some part in setting the policy of the paper.

Pedro J Ramirez and friend....

Meanwhile, supporters of El Mundo present the paper’s reporting on the Madrid attacks as simply being investigative journalism, without any other intention behind it. The problem with this is that so many of the articles published by the paper simply do not back this up. We get sensationalist headlines that make claims entirely unsupported by the articles. There is the constant emphasis on any detail, no matter how incidental, that points to ETA participation in the bombings. Where genuine specialists cannot be found to give testimony supporting the conspiracy theories, El Mundo has invented “experts”. Witness statements are edited to change the meaning of their testimony. The list is long of manipulative journalistic practices which have nothing to do with genuine independent investigative reporting.

In any case the supposed independence of Ramirez is more formal than anything else, as a couple of recent examples demonstrate. Last summer hundreds of members of the youth wing of the PP were taken to Mallorca from the Spanish mainland, to demonstrate in favour of the swimming pool at Ramirez’ house on the island, which illegally occupies a section of the supposedly public coastline. Now I suppose that the PP may be prepared to provide a similar free service to all of those who find themselves in this position, but somehow I suspect not. Ramirez also turned up not long ago at a congress of the PP in Navarra to denounce Zapatero’s government for negotiating with ETA and supporting the PP line that a secret agreement on the status of Navarra has been agreed as part of this negotiation.


Lenox said...

Ramirez used to be the editor of Diario 16, but was 'fired' by Felipe Gonzalez. He then started El Mundo with Opus money and was, from the first, very anti PSOE (understandably). His paper, from the beginning, was very readable and maintained a high standard of journalism which perhaps has loosened a bit since the Aznar times (it's much more fun being an opposition newspaper).
It's done well to become the second paper in Spain and treading on the heels of El País.

Graeme said...

I think your use of the word "loosened" to describe the decline in El Mundo's journalistic standards must go down as a considerable understatement, the paper has lost many fine journalists who refused to toe the Ramirez line and those who remain do what they are told. It may be fun being an opposition paper, but there have to be better ways of having fun than inventing fables about the most tragic terrorist attack the country has ever suffered.