Prominent Mexican journalist urges SGS students to build a society with ‘fearless speech’

In April, Mexican journalist and academic Ricardo Raphael spoke about media suppression in Mexico at the annual Stanford Global Studies student dinner.

In his remarks, Raphael described Mexico as being in a period of “timid speech,” where free press is threatened by violence and organized crime, as well as government corruption.

Raphael drew on his own experience of receiving pressure from the Mexican government due to his critical political analysis on one of the country’s most popular radio programs, Enfoque Noticias. “In Mexico, freedom of expression is at risk because the government can exchange ads for silence,” he said. The government, he added, “uses state funds to assure press obedience.”

Raphael went on to explain that this is not just a Mexican phenomenon; the entire media business model is in crisis as private advertising has moved away from traditional news media towards new platforms.

“I wish I could say that what is happening in Mexico is just an exception,” he said. “Instead, I ask that you see Mexico as an example of what is happening globally to media and freedom of expression.”

Despite these threats, Raphael, the founder and director of a master’s program in journalism, revealed that he was surprised and optimistic to see that more and more people — particularly women — want to be journalists in Mexico. And that is one way to address these threats, he explained, with more journalism — with better and more rigorous journalism.

“I want to think that we are living the middle ages of journalism and we are entering the Renaissance,” he concluded. “It’s not an easy path; it’s difficult — but we need to build a society with fearless speech.”

Following his remarks, students and faculty reflected on these challenges and ways to maintain freedom of speech and expression in conversations over dinner. During the Q&A, Raphael fielded questions from students across SGS’s diverse centers and programs, not just about the situation in Mexico, but about how countries all over the world — from Russia and Korea to Brazil, the U.S., and Turkey — grapple with these kinds of challenges.

Stanford Global Studies Director Jeremy Weinstein concluded with two thoughts that inspired him from the evening. First, “the model of courageous speech” that Raphael represents, and second, the discussion with students. “If there’s anything that’s important about this moment, it’s having a set of active young people who are paying attention to what’s happening around the world,” he said. “Ultimately, the ways that we address these challenges are going to start with the kind of people who are in this room.

Watch the video of the event via the Stanford Global Studies YouTube page.

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