In a country that is slowly recuperating from the worst social and economic crisis in memory, the media are still far from showing any improvement. First of all, when high officials in the presidents office make phone calls to pressure journalists and media outlets that criticize the government, it constitutes a serious attack on press freedom. In recent years, the press has experienced an alarming drop in circulation and advertising sales as costs have risen because of increases in the price of imported supplies and equipment after devaluations tripled the cost of the U.S. dollar. The governments that ruled in this period carried out policies that did not deal with the situation in a way that would reverse it, but instead imposed even more rigorous conditions and increased the already stifling tax burden. In 2000 Economy Minister Domingo Cavallo imposed the value added tax on the cover price of newspapers and magazines, turning up the heat on a sector that clearly depends on the domestic market. A rather unorthodox remedy was found to help journalistic enterprises, the so-called Competitiveness Plans, which allowed tax compensation between the VAT and employer contributions until March 2003. Then another system was applied that considered employer contributions as a tax credit to the VAT account. It expired last July, although it remained in effect because the courts supported an interim relief measure requested by some newspapers. This is temporary and only affects the newspapers included in the court order. In view of this worrisome situation, the Argentine press requests that until a permanent solution is found the government return to the system that allowed a tax credit to the VAT account for the amounts paid in employer contributions, which would address the situation of each company. Some journalistic enterprises have built up tax debts resulting in court-ordered attachments or takeovers of their cash assets. In an unprecedented attempt to apply prior restraint to a newspaper, on February 2, the company that publishes the daily El Tribuno of Salta, Horizontes S.A., was notified of a decision by Judge Guillermo Félix Díaz imposing restrictions on its reporting about a court case that had shaken the community. The decision came in response to a request by the lawyer of Francisco José Álvarez, who had been tried and later acquitted for murdering bus driver José Antonio Morales in 1994. The case was highly publicized. The daily El Tribuno carried news and opinions about it. In his ruling, Judge Díaz said that the newspaper should abstain from using expressions, sentences, phrases or words that could affect the presumption of innocence of the party or publish his photograph. The ban extends to news stories, commentariessigned or unsignedor referring in any way to the facts that were investigated in the case. Failure to comply with the ruling would involve a warning sentence of 5,000 pesos in each case. The Argentine press firmly rejected this measure, since it constitutes an attempt at censorship that violates Article 14 of the National Constitution and Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights, which prohibit censorship of any type. Since the renewal of democracy in 1983, the murder of photographer José Luis Cabezas of the magazine Noticias in the resort city of Pinamar on January 25, 1997, was a serious attack on press freedom. In an exemplary trial, those responsible for the crime were convicted and received harsh prison sentences. Unfortunately last November 13, the Buenos Aires provincial criminal appeals court decided to reduce the sentences. Under legislation that gives double credit for time served before all appeals are exhausted, some of the prisoners could be released at the end of this year. Because of a damage award to the Mayor Ricardo Peirone of Rafaela, Santa Fe, the printing plant of the daily Castellanos was attached for $45,000. Peirone said he was insulted in several news stories the newspaper published about an event that allegedly conflicted with the ethics of his job. The mayor requested and obtained a preventive attachment for the amount of his claim. The judge applied it to the newspapers presses. In December 2003, cameraman Federico Torres and reporter Alejandro Vargas, correspondents of Channel 9 of Resistencia, were shot with rubber-clad bullets while they were covering a demonstration by city workers in Corrientes. In San Cosme, Corrientes, people trying to take over a cattle ranch pushed a mobile unit of the newspaper Época into a ravine and forced photographer Miguel Fleitas to leave as police stood by without intervening. Jorge Ríos, Cintia Olmedo and Julán Ríos of the cable channel of Conscripto Bernardis were attacked by a group of people under the direction of provincial senator-elect Luis Luna while they covered a traffic blockage on Route 127. Reporter Damián Carreras and cameraman David Barud of Teleocho Noticias of Córdoba were attacked when they tried to interview Jorge González Segura, vice dean of the School of Exact Sciences of the National University of Córdoba. José María Delloro, a photographer for the agency Télam, was attacked during a confrontation between unemployed people and police in Neuquén. Delloro, who was hit on the head by a tear gas grenade, was taken to a clinic.