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Mexican President Under Investigation for Revealing Journalist’s Phone Number

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Mexico’s President Faces Inquiry for Disclosing Phone Number of Times Journalist

Mexico’s freedom of information institute, a government agency, said Thursday that it would start an investigation into the president’s disclosure on national television of the personal cellphone number of a journalist for The New York Times.

The investigation centers on a decision by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador during a televised news conference on Thursday that left many aghast in Mexico, one of the deadliest countries in the world for journalists. At least 128 journalists have been killed in Mexico since 2006, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

During the news conference, Mr. López Obrador read aloud from an email from Natalie Kitroeff, The New York Times’s bureau chief for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. She had requested comment for an article revealing that U.S. law enforcement officials had for years been looking into claims that allies of Mr. López Obrador met with and took millions of dollars from drug cartels.

In addition to railing against Ms. Kitroeff and identifying her by name, Mr. López Obrador publicly recited her phone number.

“This is tantamount to doxxing, illegal by Mexican privacy laws and places reporters at risk,” Jan-Albert Hootsen, the Mexico representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said on X, the social media platform.

Mexico’s National Institute of Transparency, Access to Information and Personal Data Protection, or INAI, said in a statement that its investigation would seek to establish whether Mr. López Obrador had violated Mexican legislation protecting personal data. The institute runs Mexico’s freedom of information system, which was created more than two decades ago to make government operations more transparent and curb abuses of power.

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Mr. López Obrador, whose six-year term is coming to an end this year, has long maintained a confrontational relationship with the news media and regularly attacks journalists by name at his morning news conferences.

The move against the journalist for The Times follows weeks of attacks on a ProPublica reporter, which came after the news organization published a story last month detailing an earlier investigation into accusations that drug cartels had donated millions to Mr. López Obrador’s first presidential campaign, in 2006, which he lost. The president called the reporter, Tim Golden, a “pawn” and “a mercenary in the service” of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Separately, The Times’s report on Thursday revealed a more recent inquiry during Mr. López Obrador’s presidency, which started in 2018, in which American law enforcement officials examined claims that confidants of Mr. López Obrador had received millions of dollars from drug cartels. The article cited U.S. records and three people familiar with the matter.

“This is a troubling and unacceptable tactic from a world leader at a time when threats against journalists are on the rise,” The New York Times said in a statement on Thursday in response to Mr. López Obrador’s news conference.

The United States never opened a formal investigation into Mr. López Obrador, and the officials involved ultimately shelved the inquiry after concluding that the U.S. government had little appetite to pursue allegations against the leader of a key American ally.

During their inquiry, U.S. officials identified possible links between the cartels and Mr. López Obrador’s allies and advisers after he took office, but did not find any direct ties between the president himself and criminal groups.

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Chats and reflections on the present moment.

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Lydia Polgreen

Credit…Will Heath/NBC, via Getty Images

It is a rare thing in our rapidly secularizing country to be confronted with piety and devotion in popular culture. So it was a surprise, and a balm, to watch a man who prays daily and talks openly about his devout faith storm a bastion of earthly godlessness: “Saturday Night Live.”

I am referring, of course, to the comedian Ramy Youssef, who hosted the show on what he described in his opening monologue as “an incredibly spiritual weekend,” noting Ramadan, Easter and the arrival of a new Beyoncé album.

“I’m doing the Ramadan one,” he quipped, to peals of laughter, unspooling a very funny bit about how loving Muslims are. Youssef has mined his experience as a believer among the profane in gentle standup specials and a namesake sitcom. His entire monologue glowed with a welcoming warmth — Muslims, he seemed to say: We’re just like you.

In a country that is supposedly obsessed with diversity and inclusion, it is remarkable how rare it is to hear from a practicing Muslim in America.

Surveys by the Institute for Policy and Understanding, a nonpartisan research organization focused on Muslim Americans, have consistently found that Muslims are the most likely group to report religious discrimination in the United States. According to a Pew survey conducted in 2021, 78 percent of Americans said that there was either a lot or some discrimination against Muslims in our society. Muslims are no more likely to commit crimes than members of any other group, but crimes in which Muslims are suspects get outsized media coverage, research has shown.

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It is no surprise, then, that Islamophobia is perhaps the most tolerated form of religious prejudice. Right now, Senate Republicans appear to have persuaded several Senate Democrats to vote against a Muslim judicial nominee after smearing him, with no evidence at all, as an antisemite.

Many of the skits that toyed with religion on “S.N.L.” on Saturday were funny — Ozempic for Ramadan! Genius. But part of me winced through them as well, because I saw in Youssef something that other members of minority groups have had to do to “earn” their place in the safety of the mainstream: the performance of normalcy, of being nonthreatening and sweet, the requirement to prove that your community belongs in America just like everyone else’s.

I loved Youssef’s monologue, in which he bravely pleaded, “Please, free the people of Palestine. And please, free the hostages. All of the hostages.”

“I am out of ideas,” Youssef declared toward the end of his monologue. “All I have is prayers.”

To which this nonbeliever can only say: Same, Ramy. Same.

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