Mexico net files censorship complaint against Diaz

MEXICO CITY — Beleaguered TV Azteca has filed a criminal complaint against one of Mexico’s highest cabinet officials for attempted censorship and abuse of authority, in what many see as an attempt to divert attention from its own legal woes.

Mexico’s second-largest net lodged charges against Tax and Finance Secretary Francisco Gil Diaz late Tuesday night.

It claims he demanded that it pull investigative news program “Mitos y hechos” (Myths and Facts) that revealed alleged corruption in the 2001 sale of Banamex to Citigroup.

The program aired Tuesday night.

Late Wednesday, the Tax and Finance Secretariat had made no comment on the matter. Banamex, however, called the show’s findings “false and lacking in foundation.”

“Mitos” host Lilly Tellez held a news conference on Wednesday denouncing “threats to the liberty of expression.”

However, she could provide no firm proof about the threats, saying only that an unsigned printout with a series of demands made by Gil Diaz “bears the secretary’s fingerprints.”

Analysts are highly skeptical of the claims by Azteca, which is being probed by the SEC and Mexico’s Banking and Securities Commission (CNBV) for possible securities fraud.

Net’s chairman, Ricardo Salinas, pocketed more than $100 million in a 2003 debt transaction involving telco Unefon, and may have violated various laws in doing so.

The SEC filed formal fraud charges against several Azteca officers in January, but the CNBV, which reports directly to the Tax and Finance Secretariat, has yet to press charges.

The sensational nature of Azteca’s complaint against Secretary Gil Diaz may be an attempt to apply pressure on the minister.

Earlier this year, the CNBV filed the equivalent of a subpoena against Azteca, requesting financial information related to the Unefon deal.

Net responded with a court-ordered injunction and has not handed over the requested materials.

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