The press, which has been battling for decades to maintain its freedom, now faces its most dangerous enemy, the economic crisis that is suffocating newspapers and puts them at serious risk of collapse. This very serious crisis, which affects all sectors of the economy, has worsened in recent months. The income of the print press has been drastically reduced because of circulation losses and a drop in advertising. Publishers have issued serious warnings about this situation because journalism has had to endure growing tax pressure, with the application of the VAT to advertising, and then to the cover price of newspapers and magazines. This is the main subject troubling the media, especially those in the provinces, which suffer a heavy tax burden. Press organizations have presented to the government two bills to protect the aspirations of small and medium-size businesses, requesting tax exemptions and easy payment terms for tax debts. So far there has been no response. In May, a bill was presented in the Senate providing for exemption from the VAT for advertising and a 50% reduction in the portion of that tax for purchases of paper, exclusively for Pymes publishing houses. On Wednesday, September 18, the Chamber of Deputies postponed consideration of a bill that would revoke the deregulation of the sale of newspapers, magazines and similar publications. The Argentine press issued a document concerning this bill, calling it a step backward, because “this deregulation would have ended more than 50 years of a closed marketing system, which is unique in the world, that established privileges for the few and blocked the creation of new jobs.” Deregulation improved people’s access to newspapers since new sales sources were beginning to be established, which benefited readers. The measure had been implemented by the previous government and later was reaffirmed by Decree 1025 of November 4, 2000. The newspaper organizations stressed that with deregulation freedom of expression, the press, business and work are all protected. They note that this is necessary to ensure that businesses function and to prevent the disappearance of publications, which would threaten informational diversity. On October 16, the Supreme Court upheld a decision by the High Court of Córdoba acquitting the newspaper La Voz del Interior in a libel suit brought by Miguel Angel Caruso, who owns a video poker business. The Supreme Court upheld the decision of September 1999, based upon the doctrine of “actual malice” invoked by the morning newspaper’s lawyers, clearing the responsible editor, Luis Eduardo Remonda, then the paper’s news editor, of the libel charge. In 1997, the newspaper picked up an investigative report by Canal 10 of Córdoba concerning video poker machines and the murder of former Radical senator Regino Maders. The newspaper, quoting information from court records, mentioned alleged links to the crime of people connected to the video poker business. Caruso felt offended by the report and sued La Voz del Interior and its editor. At the trial level Remonda was found liable, but the Supreme Court overturned the judgment in September 1999, ruling that “press freedom has a higher status than other freedoms, as long as it is practiced within certain guidelines.” The Supreme Court unanimously upheld Remonda’s lawyers’ arguments and ruled that the provincial court had applied the law correctly when it ruled that the terms the plaintiff considered libelous were not created by La Voz del Interior, but came from the testimony of two people in the court record, which was quoted in the article. At the beginning of October, Dr. Oscar Jorge Troisi, a surgeon who lives in Rio Grande, Tierra del Fuego, complained that he was punished at his work place, which is administered by the government, because of opinions he expressed in the newspaper Provincia 23 of that city. Dr. Troisi works at the Rio Grande Regional Hospital. He also writes a column for the newspaper at no charge discussing various topics. He also published an open letter to Governor Manfredotti. Because of these articles, the plaintiff says, he was suspended twice from his job at the hospital, once for five days and then for 10 days. The punishments were appealed administratively, but Troisi assumes that additional disciplinary measures will be imposed. Clara Britos, editor and owner of the newspaper La Tapa of Guernica, in Buenos Aires province, said she was intimidated and threatened because of her work. She says that her newspaper reported “serious acts of corruption” in her region. She also warns that “there are no guarantees; I work under the pressure of not knowing what can happen to me or someone in my family.” Britos reports mail and telephone threats, stalking and illegal tapping of her telephone. She blames Oscar Rodríguez, a former chief of staff with whom she had a “verbal confrontation” when she asked him for an interview. In an incident of national importance, a group of former president Carlos Menem’s bodyguards threatened and brutally attacked a team from the television program “Caiga Quien Caiga” in Tucumán. The team, led by Daniel Malnatti, was attacked and threatened by supposed guards of Menem. Leopoldo Jorge Kalmus, the editor of Tiempo Sur, in Río Gallegos, reported an attack on the front of the newspaper’s building and threats against its journalists and their children. Among other attacks, on Sunday, May 19, unknown persons shot at the window of the newspaper La Defensa Popular in Campana, edited by Daniel Vogel. And early in the morning of Monday, May 20, a shot was fired at the home of Ricardo Le Fort, the corporate affairs officer of the newspaper El Siglo of Tucumán. A stir was caused in Catamarca by an attack on journalists Ariel Brizuela and Carlos López Véliz, of the newspaper El Ancasti and Radio Ancasti respectively, by members of the provincial police when they were covering a demonstration. In the face of a succession of lawsuits, the newspaper El Ancasti of Catamarca, reported a situation of “judicial harassment.” The newspaper said it had been named in 19 cases. On September 17, federal judge Claudio Bonadío ordered Thomas Catán, Argentina correspondent of the Financial Times, to hand over a list of telephone calls he had made. The action followed Catán’s refusal to reveal his news sources for allegations by foreign bankers in Argentina that local senators had sought bribes to stall a legislative bill seeking to impose new taxes on banks. The judge’s action violated Argentina’s Constitution, which guarantees confidentiality of news sources. At the end of October, a federal court ruled in favor of Catán, overruling Judge Bonadío’s decision. It ordered that the list of telephone calls be destroyed in the presence of the journalist or his lawyers. The Senate has given first reading to a bill drafted by Sen. Jorge Yoma and sponsored by Sen. Jorge Busti that would reduce production costs for small and medium-size publishing houses, because of their severe economic situation. The bill would exempt their advertising from the VAT and reduce by 50% the tax on newsprint.