Miami (October 25, 2010)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today expressed great concern at a draft legislative bill in the Argentine Congress that if it became law would imply a direct involvement of the federal government in newsprint production, which it sees as a clear violation of international and constitutional principles on press freedom.
On October 19 several committees of the Chamber of Deputies endorsed a draft bill that would regulate the production, commercialization and distribution of newsprint, coinciding with a similar government initiative regarding newsprint as being “of public interest,” a move that sprang from a tense relationship that the Argentine administration has been having with the Buenos Aires newspapers Clarín and La Nación, with which it is a partner in the newsprint manufacturing company Papel Prensa.
If the bill, which could begin to be debated in the full Chamber of Deputies in two weeks, should pass there would be set up a government committee for control of newsprint sales, an official register of newspaper circulations and the requirement that no shareholder would be able to have more than a 10% ownership, thus forcing the current shareholders to give up their stock over a three-year period.
IAPA President Alejandro Aguirre declared, “We have before us a new and clear government interference that unfortunately is not unprecedented” – a reference to the fact that in the past newsprint has been used as a means of indirect pressure to silence critical and independent voices throughout the country’s history.
“We cannot but express surprise at how the Argentine Congress could legislate against international treaties or its own country’s Constitution, in whose Article 32 it is specified that no law can be enacted that affects freedom of the press or the unfettered operation of the news media,” added Aguirre, editor of the Miami, Florida, Spanish-language newspaper Diario Las Américas.
For his part, the chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Robert Rivard, editor of the San Antonio Express-News, Texas, agreeing with the stance of the press in Argentina declared, “The best and only involvement that the government should be allowed in order to support press freedom would be that newsprint distribution quotas should never be imposed nor that there be any restriction, licensing, tariffs or import duties on newsprint.”
The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 print publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida. For more information please go to http://www.sipiapa.org.