Mirentxu Purroy is a woman of great personality, which can be clearly perceived when observing the great value and generosity with which she has carried out her professional career. She is an upright journalist who has shown courageous style when taking on the adventure of transmitting on-the-pulse news of the Basque Country over the last thirty-five years. Few people will have followed the eventful path of the Basque society as closely as her. This lady from Pamplona is one of the clearest references in journalism in the Basque Country.
I first met Mirentxu Purroy at the Basque Country’s Punto y Hora de Euskal Herria magazine around the middle of the 1970s. Since then she has successfully established great journalism companies in our country and has also had a lot of disappointments. With the perspective of the more than 30 years that have passed, how does she see the development of journalism in our country?
Thirty years is a long time, almost the whole of a person’s professional life. When I started my journalism studies my father said to me “You can’t study that, because it’s not possible in a country where there isn’t freedom, with a dictatorship such as we have”. I set out, therefore, in a situation of doubt: “In a free country, yes you could, but not here, no”.
I was born under a dictatorship, when Spanish journalism was completely in favour of the dictator General Franco and the establishment. So, in the Basque country there were newspaper titles such as these: in San Sebastian La Voz de España (The Voice of Spain) and Unidad de España (Spanish Unity), in Pamplona El Pensamiento Navarro (Navarre Thought), in Bilbao El Correo Español (The Spanish Mail). It was really incredible, it was absolutely..., not only Spanish but also military, and the most evil military you can imagine. Prohibition, silence, the unspoken, this was the language of propaganda.
What has happened over the intervening thirty years? Well, when the dictator died, those of us who had ideals and aspired to freedom dreamt about starting projects in which freedom of thought, freedom of speech and freedom of the press would be possible.
Those newspapers that had been called Pueblo Español (The Spanish People), Correo Español, (The Spanish Mail), Unidad de España, (Spanish Unity) transformed themselves and changed their names. The Correo Español changed its name to just El Correo, (The Mail). Unidad disappeared and was replaced by a different type of newspaper. They adapted to the new circumstances, because at the end of the day they are businesses. Businesses that need to continue to have customers and continue to have advertisers. This was the reality of a country that nevertheless continued to have a great deal of difficulty in becoming a country able to express itself. With freedom of expression through the dissemination of the written word or visual image. And editorial forces emerged so that this voice could flourish.
Punto y Hora de Euskal Herria was the pioneer. Had I had the money I would have set up a newspaper, but as I didn’t I set up a humble magazine instead. Immediately after Punto y Hora, Berria, Garaia any many others started up. And then newspapers: Deia and then immediately afterwards Egin. From then on there began to be a real possibility of having a channel through which to express thoughts, articles, words which until then had not been expressed. It had not been possible until then to publish such content.
But the strange and striking fact is that after 30 years the newspapers that continue to sell the most, that continue to be bought the most and that continue to be strongest are those that became rich during the Franco dictatorship.
Listening to you, I have realised we have a point in common, in the origin of your profession and in my frustrated vocation, in that I can still see my father’s face when I told him I wanted to be a journalist. I studied economics and business studies, against my better judgement, because I had wanted to be a journalist. When I told my father back then in 1965, he said to me “Do you know what that would mean? Being a member of the Falange! And towing their line”. I also started to take my first steps in journalism, not like you as a professional but rather as an amateur, towards the end of the dictatorship, in 1974. The truth is that at that time space had to be fought for in the media. There wasn’t anything. Absolutely nothing.
Everything had to done for the first time. This was truly a dream, because when we started up the magazine we, naively, wanted to emulate the pinnacle of French journalism, Le Monde. We wanted to create a writers’ company, where the journalists were the owners, so that they did not have to be at the service of companies, ideologies or dictators. And in fact this is what it was.
But we used to work for nothing, most of us who made up the Punto y Hora group were employed at the same time in other media and wrote under pseudonyms because of the fear that still existed in making this bid for freedom. We could never imagine succeeding. It was difficult to imagine we were opening up freedom of the press and I still remember with horror the first editions of Punto y Hora.
We had to overcome censorship, and I used to take the galley proofs to the censor, who was in Pamplona. At that time the censor was Jaime Ignacio del Burgo’s father. I had to go to his office. And he crossed out the parts that we couldn’t publish. But as well as this, they confiscated the magazine more than once. The police went in, they broke up the gallies in front of you, they tore up the magazines... In other words, an outrage. Even when the dictator was dead, when you tried to be a little more open and gain new ground, as your father said it wasn’t possible if you didn’t tow the line. This went on for several years.
Who worked with you at the beginning of Punto y Hora de Euskal Herria?
You wouldn’t recognise their names. I’m not going to name them. Most of my friends were in Catalonia and are still there, and it was the Catalans who helped me. And others who I’m not going to name because they have become so Spanish over time that I don’t want to.
After having raised so many expectations, so much affection towards this new form of warm, quality journalism that people could relate to, which portrayed a reality that until then had not been reflected in the media, why did it fail? Why was Punto y Hora unsuccessful?
Because those in power were very effective. When they blew us up with a bomb, I just avoided death by a few minutes. We were working in an ordinary building, where the Veterinary Surgeons Association was based, decent premises. And suddenly they were terrified to have us there. Of course, we were left with nothing. And we had to start over again from scratch... by then the new press had greater penetration in the media and we had Egin y Deia on the street, and so there was less of a market for our magazine. And in addition I also left Punto y Hora. That was when I moved on to Egin, and I lost track of Punto y Hora, because I was busy with the newspaper.
I think it simply stagnated. And when things stagnate it is because in reality you are failing to reflect what the people hope you will give them. I think that at the time when we founded it and tried to develop it we were spokespersons for the need that the people had to see greater freedom in the country. The possibility of creating a Basque homeland was real. And you were fulfilling expectations, providing honest and accurate information. We took a lot of risks, providing information that no one else dared provide.
Now we are touching on the issue of Xabier Vinader, who had to go into exile because of information that he gave in Interviu. It turned out that at around the same time I went to prison in Pamplona because of a letter to the editor. A letter from a gentleman who did not face the music when they tried me and it was proved that the facts in the letter were true. I respected his pseudonym and anonymity because that was one of our characteristics. You can’t make people put their lives at stake, that’s what you are there for, you simply had to say, if something happened, that the facts were accurate.
It was a letter written spontaneously describing what had happened at the Lekeitio Goose Festival. The Civil Guard burst in, massacred whole families, went into bars, beat up a pregnant woman who almost gave birth in the street. The sender of the letter wrote a very succinct letter. I published it and then, as the Civil Guard was military, they tried me in a military court. I had to provide supporting information for the judge. The doctor from Lekeitio helped me a lot. He told me: “I attended the wounded and everything (that has been said) is true”. It was only me they took to prison and they held a military court to try me. Then they granted me an amnesty, fortunately, because if they hadn’t I would have spent fourteen years in prison.
This experience shows that the situation at that time was very difficult. If you were taking that sort of risk just for a letter, and a true letter at that, you can imagine what would happen if you reported what happened in a demonstration, in Basque cultural associations, what was happening in relation to the Basque language. It was incredible, unthinkable. But all that did have a positive effect. We opened up the way for Egin and Deia.
Who encouraged you to take on the management of Egin?
It was the result of the circumstances. At root it was the result of what happened with the magazine when they planted the bomb. We went into a sort of bankruptcy and it happened at the same time that Juan Ramon Martinez, who had succeeded Mariano Ferrer, the first Editor of Egin, was killed in a traffic accident along with Tomas Muro who was the managing editor.
Soon after that, a large part of the administrative board of Egin’s founders’ council came to me, saying that they wanted me to come and manage the newspaper. I told them that I couldn’t abandon ship under those circumstances, and that was when they told me that Orain S.A. was going to take over the Punto y Hora magazine, and that the editor was going to be Sanchez Erauskin. I accepted the offer and joined Egin. From then on I lost track of the day to day events at the magazine but I think that one of the reasons that this new period in the life of Punto y Hora failed is because they took it to Navarre, which was a very symbolic act.
What was it like at Egin? Obviously it was a totally different challenge...
Yes, but don’t think that it was more difficult. For me it was Punto y Hora that was truly difficult in all aspects and at all levels, even the human level, because that time was very chaotic. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to be in Russia when the Berlin wall fell, but at that time when I was at Punto y Hora you lived your daily life alongside all the militarism all of the dictatorship, with some laws that were not liberalised, and those who were in charge in the streets were the ultra-right, the Fascists, the military, that is to say the beneficiaries of Francoism. And the atmosphere was impossible. I, for example, have never been more threatened with death, more persecuted, received more death threats than at that time. They blew up my car and I just missed being blown up myself by seconds. I jumped out of it and it blew up in front of me.
And when I started work at Egin, let’s say that what was happening to me personally became part of the general context. That’s how it was for me every day, two days out of three there was a warning of a bomb and we had to evacuate the newspaper because of the threat. My colleagues always worked with a great deal of enthusiasm. Everybody I met, both at Punto y Hora and Egin was truly generous, fighters. Fighters in the sense of giving it their all, being convinced that what they were doing was worth the effort and they worked as many hours as was necessary, overcoming whatever difficulties they had to. But the persecution of Egin became greater and greater. Egin annoyed people at all levels.
My first job every morning was to go to court. There were always complaints. In those days there were four editions, so I also had to go to court in Pamplona, in Vitoria, in San Sebastian and in Bilbao, because I had to appear before the court every day. I accumulated some twenty open indictments. But in addition to this, the worst things I experienced at Egin occurred inside the organisation A type of unresolved power struggle, that was there from the beginning, with members of Euskadiko Ezkerra (Basque Country Left, a Basque socialist political organisation), who would later join Herri Batasuna (Unity of the People, a coalition of leftist nationalist political groups), to see who really could assert themselves in the management of the publication. The internal disquiet at times did much more damage when we were working together everyday than the actual difficulty of managing a publication of this type.
You have commented in the past that after thirty years it is curious that the healthiest publications today are those that made money under Franco. I’m not sure whether it is true that they made more money under Franco than during democracy. I think there are some that became much more consolidated after Franco. Leaving that question aside for now, there have been some other things that have surprised you over the thirty years, more directly related to the job of journalism than to its consequences, haven’t there?
The idea that I have of journalism is that in essence you are nobody, absolutely nobody. Your opinion only becomes important to people when you decide that you are going to write an article and sign it Mirentxu Purroy or whoever you are. The principal right of the reader is to information.
We have ceased to do this type of journalism, instead we do written, radio and TV journalism as a performance, with actors and actresses that sell everything from everybody, including themselves. There are lots of people in the media who are perfectly comfortable with the power they have and with those they decide to serve. This is what has struck me the most. This loss of respect for the right to be well informed, the respect for freedom, respect for high quality information, respect for checking your sources, respect for the ethics of journalism, and respect for separating reporting from advertising and selling. And values such as freedom have fallen into disuse.
You are talking about behaving according to the dictates of the voice of your soul...
Yes, exactly. What is the difference between the Fracoism that decided things for you and the journalism of today? Under Franco, you knew you did not have freedom. When Franco was alive I hardly worked as a proper journalist. Now it is the journalist who decides, in theory, where he would like to work, without it being too painful or hard for him ethically. Imagine me. I feel myself to be Basque. I don’t think I could ever work for Spanish journalism that was committed to Spain and working for Spanish interests or the interests of Zapatero or Rajoy, for example. It would be possible for me, theoretically, not to go and work in a part of the media where I knew they would impose such an approach on me, which for me would be unacceptable. By acting in this way, you make the only gesture in support of freedom that there is. If you don’t, then it follows that you have to serve their ideology. So the essential difference is the type of censorship. Some are censored, others are not, after all they are simply playing the business game.
Did you think, at the beginning of your career, that you would be able to be a journalist working more as a “columnist” than motivated purely by “love”? Would it have been easy at that time to work for a publication, for example, in Valladolid?
Before I started Punto y Hora, I worked for Adelanto de Salamanca (Salamanca Progress). I always say I don’t know what lack of progress is but I know progress perfectly well. And the truth is I was very lucky. My editor was a man who was educated in the Institución Libre de Enseñanza (Free Education Institute). He was a Republican, and I have never had more freedom than I had then. He was Enrique de Sena Marcos, a wonderful person, as well as an educated man, a great conversationalist and a generous one.
So I think that sometimes it’s not the media but rather the people that matter. Of course, it is always the people. Because of this I think that what has been degraded is the human condition, the rest is secondary.
But that this human condition has been able to be degraded is clearly because it has been influenced by seeing journalism as a business. Because here the two newspapers that started up when you were practically just beginning were Deia in May 1977 and Egin a few months later. And these were not commercial projects. They may have had a vague idea about an operating account but it was clear they were not trying to be what a company would have been. Nowadays it is the business model that rules.
That is true, but nevertheless they were profitable commercially.
Are you sure? Commercially profitable? If you say so...
Yes, yes, they were. Adjustments had to be made at the beginning because it was believed, naively, for example, that it was possible to maintain the four editions of Egin. And they had to reduce costs, but they certainly were profitable, at least as far as I know. I had a good boss and things worked well, it was a good outfit financially. I know less about Deia, but from when it became self-supporting, without the PNV constantly pumping money into it, it did support itself.
I get the impression that after being in Salamanca you believed in a particular type of journalism. Nowadays that model is difficult to develop. What do you think of the journalists that come out of school now?
What has changed very little is that everyone inherits something and so very probably the have inherited their parents’ need for security. Their parents value their security and want to give their children a much better future, and their children know that the only way to have a secure future is to have a good job where they get a pay cheque and are able to have a steady salary. Because this is what they have inherited, the development of a vocation with a certain creative risk is not so important to them now. They opt for security above all else, because there will be time to develop hobbies later and somewhere else. As Buñuel would say: first a job that will feed you and a creative job can come later. Journalism is serving as a job that provides you with food, and so you lose sight of ideals.
I think that ideals are renounced at the outset. It is assumed that standards of intellectual autonomy or journalism are lower and that you have to adapt to the circumstances.
Do you think that there has been a fall in standards of journalism by columnists?
I think that this type of journalism has not declined so much. If you think about it, one of the things that makes newspapers today is the articles by well known writers, by so-and-so, in any of the newspapers, whether in the Basque language or in Spanish. There are a lot of well-known names. We can call these well-known writer journalists the columnists. But this is just one type of journalism, it is not the only type and for me there are other, more complicated types that are increasingly difficult to create.
In a newspaper where you are not welcome, you will never be given a place, neither to defend your ideas nor for your ideas to be discussed. They will simply trash you. An informative account of you will not be given. And there are journalists who accept that this happens. To me this seems bad, the lack of conscience, the lack of professional ethics. Whether or not you like the idea of a strike, it exists, it is happening. Silencing it does not resolve anything. You report it as honourably as possible. And this is the criterion I use to differentiate. The ethical attitude of journalism faced with reality. And journalism by well-known writers, famous bylines, people who have weight and a good reputation and are allowed to write and express their opinions in the media, this is something different.
In other words you still believe, in some way, in freedom of expression and what you doubt is the freedom of publication...
Yes, that’s right.
From what you have said about column writers in the press, I get the impression that this type of journalism could act as a guarantee of standards and intelligence, to superimpose on the welter of information, in the final analysis, disinformation, and to help us create order within our right to be informed. Clearly so, as these columnists can publish freely. Moving on to another issue, the history of modern journalism shows us that the first magazines date from the middle of the 17th century and the dailies around the beginning of the 18th century. Radio started towards the end of the 19th century. Changes have been occurring over four centuries at an ever increasing speed. And now in a quarter of a century we have made such a spectacular jump... nobody can guess what’s coming next... Nowadays would you create a new Punto y Hora de Euskal Herria?
I think that now, yes, it would be important to have a medium in which one could reflect with much more freedom, without having to depend on the political colours of one person or another who is completely compromised politically. Even if it were in order to say something as simple as “Hey, what happened in the Loiola conversations? Who said what and how did they say it?”.
Because what is absolutely clear today is the insincerity of the politicians, their moral corruption. It is extremely important now, so that people do not become more disappointed, more than they already are, that someone with greater freedom (as the possibility of being free now exists), a person without any ideological bias, can reflect and express their opinion about they way things should go. And take a series of people who can contribute to a more reflective journalism, weekly or fortnightly, to be able to say what must be said.
Someone is needed who could, calmly, not need to agree with only one side, not need to refuse to agree with only one side and, in addition, who would be capable of finding points of agreement, because there must always be freedom of opinion.
It strikes me that you would like to do this type of journalism yourself, which in some ways is research. Certainly more young Basques today know you through your television programme Mundo.hoy (The World Today) on the Basque Country’s public broadcasting service Euskal Telebista, than through what was Punto y Hora. The truth is that I watch the programme too and some editions have been magnificent, showing the reality of the world with complete transparency. Personally I would like to see a programme of this type based on what is happening in this country.
I have made programmes of this type, with a Basque theme, although they were not included in Mundo.hoy.
When Aranzadi was given the René Cassin Award, I reminded the extraordinary forensic pathologist Paco Exteberria that I had made the Lasa y Zabala documentary which was nearly an hour long. Euskal Telebista was also very brave for the way it really tackled the subject. And I have made many programmes like that one. What happened was that they were not broadcast as a series and they were shown as parts of different programmes. In the current series having a collection of topics in each programme has become standard. But it is not because I do not feel like tackling the subject. It would be good to do it more frequently.
Now, it is indeed true that television is not that interested in entering into the Basque question, because it is always more complex. And you need to be distanced from it and I am not capable of remaining detached. I don’t know...
It’s often said that reality is stranger than fiction. And it is very probable that there would be viewers who would not believe what was shown in a programme of this type with a Basque theme. Huh, another of Mirentxu’s inventions!
Probably. I do believe that showing the current reality, but focusing on the points of view that are not usually used because there isn’t enough time, or because they are not interesting would have a significant impact. You work at quite a speed. Don’t think it’s easy to focus on the country as a theme. What I do believe is that it is one of the most lively and passionate countries.
I imagine that with your international contacts you will have ideas about our country that contrast with those of foreign journalists.
There are very few who have a clear view of the country, because they too are victims of the concentration of the media into a single pair of hands, and everything that the world press agencies distribute is the same.
Those who have the opportunity to visit the country for themselves discover that this is a very, interesting country. They find it very striking, and it is a real discovery for them, and they like it, and also admire it. They don’t just have the ETA stereotype in their minds.
We were talking about fiction and journalism. It is now five years since the Egunkaria case. How do you feel about it now?
It was just incredible! I remember I got a bus with a crowd of friends and we went to the spontaneous demonstration that took place after Egunkaria was closed down, it was impossible to believe that it has happened. And we met people again whom we hadn’t seen for many years and we talked about how it seemed as if time had stood still in this country, with us having to demonstrate as we were doing against such a huge aberration as that.
I think that it is the crowning achievement of what the Spaniards call democracy, to dismiss a nation of people that are not Spanish, that are not Castilian, that do not want to conquer the world, nor consider themselves above others, but rather are saying, this is my home, this is my country, respect it. It’s a real achievement to say to people: you do not exist nor do we respect you.
Will it stay like this for a long time to come?
I have been very struck by the degradation and the political, human and personal poverty of the new politicians of today. And when I say new, the thing is they really are new, they are a people “sine nobilitate”, as the English would say, without nobility. Without nobility is understood by the English to be someone who is a “snob”, a nouveau arrivé who wants to be accepted into the highest positions straight away, without demonstrating they have any qualifications, experience, education or professional merit. They have gained power through cronyism. But when we give them our votes they appropriate them and use them as if they were their own.
Without exception, they are a bunch of swindlers of other people’s freedom. They’ve dipped their hands into the state coffers in a thousand different ways: with the abusive use of their political position to get benefits for themselves and advantages for their families, with their privileged dining, travelling, going on courses and attending conferences, trafficking building permits and sharing out management jobs amongst their friends in radio, television, councils and services. They turn out to be frauds, which makes them little appreciated by the public who have lost regard and respect for them and have lost confidence in them.
I think the thing that above all has really reduced people’s hopes for more in this country has been its politicians. Here there’s a bunch of people who have gained power but who are completely without merit.
And is it possible that in this situation someone could emerge who could take matters in hand and change things? Because, if not, it seems we are in real trouble...
As in everything, there are exceptions. I don’t want to generalise. What I am saying is that there are one or two generations who have come to power en masse, through cronyism within their own party and, suddenly, instead of assuming that they have come to serve, they have decided to help themselves and they take advantage of their positions time and time again. They have come to enjoy it and they have not felt the need, the duty, the obligation to be transparent. And when I say transparent, I don’t only mean to be transparent financially but rather to know what they are doing with the freedom of others, how they are managing it. To know where the hope that we delegate to them is going to lead. There is a lack of moral commitment to giving an account of our moral funds and who is embezzling them. And in exchange for what?
But with this tide of greyness that is leading us to mediocrity, can I ask you once again if you think a fairy godmother could suddenly emerge who says “Now I am going to change things”?
I think that the solution is all around us, it lies with the people and you live in the hope of them saying “This is the situation we’ve got into, but we’re not going to put up with it any longer”. I think that we lack...
A Basque Obama...
Yes, perhaps. We lack someone who can bind the people together and who says out loud what everyone is thinking and give the issue shape. It’s a formula that they are not looking for. But the people want someone to give them hope, to make them feel sure that the problems of the last thirty years have been worth it, that the battles we have fought over a hundred years and across generations have been worthwhile. Someone who states definitively “We can no longer continue tolerating the degradation of the entire essence of our being”. Why on earth should we tolerate this?
Bishop José María Setién says that the solution to the current state of the church will not come from the priests but rather from ordinary Christian citizens.
This country has produced some great people, at all levels, both culturally and politically. But this is not its finest hour, far from it. We have had a lot of moles, who have done the job of dividing us and leaving us in this state of obvious ruin. But I think we are going to emerge all the stronger for it.
Changing the topic, who have been the greatest influences in your journalistic career?
I’ve never really looked up to any ’mythical’ figures. Instead, professional ethics have been my guide. I am absolutely clear about what I think is proper and what I think is not. Of course, at the time I loved Oriana Fallacci’s interviews and I bought all her books...but then I saw her change and what she was writing... and I never stopped being be amazed by how I had been able to read and follow her like that.
Yes, she changed radically... or perhaps Fallaci was like that before in secret, and she did not behave ethically like you do...
We can’t deny she was an excellent interviewer. I also used to like Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, Carandell, Miret Magdalena. I used to read the Triunfo’s leader column. But I think that I always kept in mind a phrase by Albert Camus which touched my soul. It was said by the Frenchman when he was presented with the Nobel Prize for Literature. In Camus’ opinion journalists have to be “the emotional spokesperson for the people”. He stressed that it is every professional’s duty to express and provide a channel for what others think and what they feel, and to publish it.
This was my principle. And I naively try to continue to live by it trying to publish what might seem really interesting to people, what the people might need to know. And how can you to contribute to making this possible? By doing this little by little and bit by bit but doing it every day.
It is clearly ethics that drives you in this work, isn’t it?
Drives you and also gives you credibility in the eyes of the public.
Maybe so. I respect the public a great deal. l love them and above all I am grateful that they always treat me so well. I am happy to be given what I deserve and nothing more. I have tried to give of my best in my work, this is the minimum I have asked of myself. I put my intelligence and ability at the service of those who have the right to know as much of the truth as possible as fully as possible. By this I don’t mean that objectivity or absolute truth exists. Far from it. But we all have the right to have a space where we can contribute freely, from where we can express our opinions, without this freedom having been manipulated or managed by anyone.
This is what I seek, this is my dream. I understand that I may be fighting a rear guard action here. That is to say, my generation seems to have disappeared. I can see that this doesn’t matter at all to the new generation of journalists. They are in a very bad, very precarious position. They are well trained, they know a lot more and have more opportunities than we had, but they accept the salaries of precarious employment and they put up with it, they are not going to put up a fight.
And what would you like to leave behind, after “fighting your rear guard action”?
I am going to start writing now. I have spent my life filing information away, after being a witness over many years to many events, keeping many of them secret. I have kept completely silent. I think I have been a very honourable journalist, because others, with the information I have been able to accumulate, would have published their books and lined their pockets there and then.
Therefore, when I tell you that the new politicians are swindling us out of our freedom, I am telling you the truth. I could use the information I have to demonstrate how people get these posts but I am not going to do it, and I never will. I want to emphasise this because it really is true.
I have been witness to attempts, like the first one that was made in what was called “the Basque Summit” in Txiberta. The representatives of the whole of the Basque world of politics met together, with the two ETAs (the military ETA and the politico-military ETA) around a huge table, immense, in a secret location. We all arrived wearing masks, with our faces covered. There were representatives of the mayors’ movement, representatives of 68 municipalities, the federal PNV, Iparralde and Hegoalde, ANV, ELA, ESEI, EIA, LAIA, EK, etc. There were meetings for three or four months, trying to find a way of achieving peace and the Basque people’s desire for freedom.
I was the only journalist there and I continue to be the only journalist with information about the meeting. But what I heard them say to one another... it shocked me! They lied over and over again out of self-interest, and everyone did it. And it was there that discovered for the first time, being but a young woman, that the parties utterly loathed each other. What has happened since then is that the same or greater hatred has continued. Some parties have disappeared, others have emerged, but it makes no difference. The lack of understanding and the betrayals have continued. Who immediately made a pact with Spain although they tricked the rest, who wasn’t willing to give way not even to achieve a truce, it’s all the same. The same old story. And you think about how you could put a stop to that, and it frightens you.
The super-honourable person, in all honesty, whom I have met, who is not self-serving but rather works for the country 24 hours a day, is Ibarretxe. That is why they are going to oppress him. And what is amazing is his personal integrity. He is a person who is not seeking his own vanity, smart suits, fine dining, but instead has committed himself to certain things and he wants to move them on. What disturbs people today? It is not ideology, it is personal integrity. Ibarretxe is unbribable. Not even his own party has been able to do that, and they’ve tried hard enough. I think he has inherited the torch of integrity from other leaders such as Irujo, Ajuriaguerra, Rubial, Garaikoetxea and Arzalluz. But he has emerged with determination and they want to oust him. Not because of his ideology, but rather his integrity, which is one of the values in which I believe. Integrity makes us free and freedom gives us strength and energy to shout: I want to help, I want to serve and I don’t want to take advantage.
Yes, what you are saying is that when it was possible to seat dozens of people from different ideological backgrounds around a table, when there still wasn’t a sordid fight for power but rather it was an ideological fight, nothing came out of it other than betrayals and back stabbing. So we can’t hope for much from our current “establishment”...
At that time there was a certain degree of control over power, because it was when the PNV made the pact with PSOE to work together in the Frente Autonomico...We were just at the start of the first elections of 1977.
But right now it would be more difficult to undo that tangled knot.
Much more difficult. Because more misery and more vested interests have built up. You can see that the people are tired of it all and want to punish all of those who have been in power and have been governing for such a long time. But the very system of electing our representatives is like a revolving door, it never comes to an end and there is no opportunity to punish, except on rare occasions. How long are we going to continue with this system of political parties? How long are we going to carry on with closed lists? Why can’t we organise primaries, and choose the person we believe has no strings attached... and ensure that he remains that way?
I am not going to press you further, because I can see you have had enough. However, I would appreciate it if you could give a message to our new journalists. How should the new professionals who are just starting-out work to improve themselves both professionally and in their dedication to the country?
Firstly, they already have a great advantage compared with the older generation of journalists in that they are very well informed, they can speak two or three languages, something that is very much to their advantage. In addition, they have a much better grasp of the new technologies than we have. We have had to learn about them whereas they were practically born with them. All these young people have mastered them. So, as in all professions, you have to try to do very well every day. Keep up-to-date, make sure that your sources are reliable, and demonstrate that you really are a good journalist.
How can you demonstrate that? Well, by your information being the most accurate, even though you don’t know if other people will notice this. The journalist who has really worked on his information, who has worked on his article, who has worked on his contacts and, however little they let him say, gets it published. Its content is significant and has an impact. For me that is a solid basis for becoming a good journalist.
Making a significant contribution.
And then the rest comes gradually. Who has the better notebook, who has better contacts, who has taken great pains to check their sources, to provide more facts? And in the end they say “Who is this young journalist who...? Hey, I like how he writes, I like what he says, I like his contribution”.
I think young journalists have a lot of opportunities. And within the constraint that none of the media offer a great deal of freedom, they should choose the best medium for themselves, the one that gives them the most opportunities. I think there are many opportunities for young journalists today.
Anyway, while you think they have a comparative advantage, it seems that the fact that now there is more information available has had a negative effect on the traditional media. The digital revolution has changed journalism and today there is a generation of readers who do not read newspapers to keep themselves informed. And if they do, they prefer the free newspaper that they get at the entrances to the metro. Where is this new journalism going?
It is leading to the internet being controlled. Giant companies, such as those of the world’s media tycoon, Rupert Murdoch, do not only control the major newspapers, major television channels, radio stations, cinema and satellite systems. Now, News Corporation has several thousand communication industry professionals supervising the content that is currently consumed by the majority of people both “online”, and on paper and television. The digital revolution fragments communication and business is moving in to take it over. At the moment the minorities, who have not yet been taken over in terms of information, are winning the battle between information and propaganda, in the face of new consumers who look for instant content. This is something that is very interesting, that could displace the old elites, accustomed to putting obstacles in the way of freedom. Mirentxu Purroy Journalist from Pamplona dedicated to information in various mass media in newspapers, cinema and television. Graduate in Philosophy and Clinical Psychology she continued her studies in New York, at Columbia University and New York University where she graduated in Film-making. Founder of “Punto y Hora” and director of “Egin” she is the author of such films as: “El Silencio de los Inocentes” and “Destras del tiempo” and of numerous documentaries. At present she directs the current affairs and journalistic research programme “Mundo.hoy” in the Basque television channel Euskal Telebista.