RAYMUNDO RIVA PALACIO is only the second Mexican journalist to receive the prestigious Neiman Foundation fellowship for a year of independent study at Harvard University.But no thanks go to President Carlos Salinas de Gortari's press office, says Mr. Riva Palacio. A three-page private letter sent to Riva Palacio on June 24, took him to task for several errors made in a column about a dinner Mr. Salinas had with CNN-owner Ted Turner. Some of those errors were corrected in a subsequent column. A copy of the letter, without a cover letter, was also sent to Bill Kovach, the curator of the Neiman Foundation program. "No, he didn't ask for it," recalls presidential press officer Oscar Rocha, who wrote the letter. "It was nothing official. There was no intention on our part personally or professionally to injure Raymundo's professional career," Mr. Rocha says. Mr. Kovach says letters questioning Neiman candidates are not unusual. But "for a government to send a letter, and at this level, is a little unusual. Governments tend to express themselves in other ways. We have a Chinese journalist who won't be here because her government won't give her a passport," says Kovach. Sending a copy of the letter to Kovach was part of a payback for getting on the wrong side of the administration, says Riva Palacio. Besides his critical columns in El Financiero, the veteran journalist traces his fall from grace back to January when he quit a 14-month stint as director of the government's wire agency, Notimex. IT wasn't because of censorship. "I have to admit, I could do anything I wanted. But during that time I had access to certain internal meetings at Los Pinos [presidential offices]. I realized, this government was never going to be one of democrats. Their interest was not in forming a democratic information project but in a propaganda design. That was something I didn't want to participate in," says Riva Palacio. This month, Riva Palacio starts work on his Neiman project titled "Mexican government-press relations within the framework of democratic transition."