Privacy concerns in Mexico after phone numbers of journalist, leaders made public

The eldest son of Mexico’s president José Ramón López Beltrán said the incident began with a letter that contained “threats and lies” directed at the president and his sons

February 26, 2024 07:12 am | Updated 07:12 am IST - MEXICO CITY

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. File

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. File | Photo Credit: AP

The eldest son of Mexico’s president and the governing party's presidential candidate said on February 24 that their telephone numbers were published on social media and that they have received threats and insults. Both denounced the action.

The incident came a day after President Andrés Manuel López Obrador disclosed the phone number of a reporter for The New York Times, which published a story about a U.S. probe into claims that Mr. López took money from drug traffickers. Mr. López Obrador denied the allegations.

The first to report the release of his phone number was the president’s oldest son, José Ramón López Beltrán, who wrote on the X platform that he considered the action “a kind of vengeance” and said it puts his family in danger.

It wasn't immediately clear who made the number public. Mr. López Beltrán said the incident began with a letter that contained “threats and lies” directed at the president and his sons. He did not elaborate.

On Saturday, Mexico’s president told reporters that it was “embarrassing for them to act that way,” referring to everyone involved.

He spoke while visiting the city of Mazatlan and once again criticised The New York Times report, saying, “We are not taking a single step back in the defense of liberty and justice.”

Mr. López Beltrán said it was the second time that his phone number has been published and noted he also has been harassed by cameras and drones everywhere he has lived.

Mr. López Beltrán also blamed The New York Times reporter, Natalie Kitroeff, for her phone number being made public, saying she provided the number “thinking that the president would respond to her slander.”

Hours later, the presidential candidate of Mr. López Obrador's Morena party, Claudia Sheinbaum, as well as the party's secretary general, Citlalli Hernández, announced that their numbers also had been leaked and that they were receiving offensive calls and messages.

“It’s obvious what they want to do, again their attacks are as crude as they are harmless,” Ms. Sheinbaum said on her social media account and posted a screenshot of one of the messages she received.

The leak of the phone data was condemned by Adrián Alcalá, head of the National Institute of Transparency, Access to Information and Protection of Personal Data, an autonomous body that guarantees access to information and the protection of personal data in Mexico.

Mr. Alcalá said on his X account that the body would seek to ensure the right to the protection of personal data in Mexico.

Mr. López Obrador on Friday defended his release of Ms. Kitroeff’s number despite local regulations on the protection of personal data.

“Above that law is moral authority and political authority, and I represent a country and I represent a people who deserve respect,” the president said.

Mr. Alcalá objected to those comments, telling Mr. López Obrador that no one in Mexico is above the law, including the president and all other public officials.

“We regret that the Presidency does not warn how serious the disclosure of information by any person can be, especially by a journalist,” Mr. Alcalá said on X.

Mr. López Obrador has questioned the need for Mr. Alcalá's agency on several occasions, and this month he presented an initiative in Congress to eliminate it and other autonomous agencies.

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