ARGENTINA

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During this period, journalists and media outlets continued their efforts to guarantee press freedom, despite the government’s efforts to control them. As the current administration approaches the end of its term it continues to exercise arbitrary discretion to classify politicians, journalists and media outlets as friends or enemies. On March 1, President Kirchner opened the last session of the National Congress with a speech highlighting his economic achievements. In it, he harshly warned the media, saying he is not afraid of those who write, and he asked them to be critical of their own work. On March 7, at the opening of an office to promote foreign investment, Kirchner criticized the intentional malice of some writers and apprentice economists who have expressed doubts about the consumer price index released by a government agency. The contempt for the role of the media became obvious when Enrique Albistur, the national press secretary said, “it is arrogant of some journalists to say it is a mistake for President Kirchner not to have news conferences. In truth, what upsets the journalists is that they are no longer necessary intermediaries.” The government’s distribution of official advertising has been a cause of concern both domestically and internationally. It is not based on the principles necessary to avoid the suspicion of patronage or arbitrariness and it allows the control of public funds intended for that purpose. The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Organization of American States supported several of the IAPA’s complaints, and demanded that Congress take up pending bills to regulate the placement and distribution of funds intended for government advertising. The U.S. State Department mentioned in its annual report on human rights in the world the government’s interference with press freedom and distribution of advertising. The Civil Rights Association sent a proposal to Congress with a series of basic principles to regulate this matter. It stressed the requirements that the advertising be useful to the population and that it not explicitly or implicitly promote the interests of the government or any political party. The government dismissed three bills regulating official advertising, and Guillermo Jenefes, the chairman of the Media and Press Freedom Committee of the Chamber of Deputies, said it was not an appropriate topic for legislation. The daily Rio Negro still suffers discrimination in official advertising compared with other media outlets in Neuquén Province, as well as difficulty in gaining access to officials who could provide important information. In general, it continues to have problems in reaching government sources, such as those in the departments of finance, education and banking in Nauquén proving. The lawsuit alleging discrimination in advertising brought by Río Negro in 2003 when it reported a serious corruption incident that tarnished the Neuquén government still has not been resolved. It was sent to national attorney general Esteban Righi. He declined to take the case on the grounds that there was no regulation establishing guidelines for judicial oversight, and Río Negro’s lawsuit has not been successful. The decision was criticized because the fact that there is no regulation setting criteria for placement of government advertising does not exempt the government’s decisions in this matter from judicial oversight. Also, the prosecutor did not take into account that this was not just an infraction of a local rule, but a violation of the principles of the American Convention on Human Rights and the Inter-American Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression. In 2004, the government placed 60.525 centimeters in the competing newspaper and 11.005 centimeters in Río Negro, despite the fact that it has greater circulation and penetration. Also the appeal to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights presented in mid-2003 is pending. In December, a police case gave the media and the public a way to analyze journalistic behavior. It had to do with a crime committed in a gated community in the city of Río Cuatro in Cordoba province. The murder of an attractive and wealthy woman, the wife of a well-known doctor, is still attracting public interest. According to an editorial in La Nación, the details of the case were aired by some reporters in a crude and frivolous way, violating the privacy of the victim, her relatives and associates. It has made it clear that journalistic ethics must be a daily practice, not just a theory. National Senator Vilma Ibarra proposed a condemnation of the media in general for the way this matter was handled. The proposal was approved by the Senate, condemning both the just and the sinners. Its intention was to establish regulations or censorship that could harm press freedom. The Association of Argentine Journalism Organizations (ADEPA), said that the contents of these publications should be judged by the readers, and, if appropriate, the courts. Journalists of La Voz del Interior, T y C Sport, Olé, and Página 12 were attacked during sporting events, and journalistic associations protested to the Argentina Football Association, AFA. The association said it deplored what had happened and promised to redouble its efforts to prevent violence from tarnishing the image of sports. There was a case of intimidation of public officials who speak to the press when Andrea Prodan, a Defense Ministry official, granted an interview to the magazine Noticias last January. Just three hours after the magazine appeared on newsstands, she received a message on her cell phone saying she had been dismissed. The daily La Mañana of Cordoba is still facing insults and restriction of access to news sources by the mayor of the capital who is angry about news of budgetary and administrative irregularities that brought to light serious failings in his administration. Todavía permanece esquiva una legislación sobre acceso a la información pública.

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