Press freedom has continued to undergo ups and downs, as journalists find themselves subjected to all sorts of insults and smears. President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner continues to express hostility toward the press. On February 15 she said, “There almost seems to be an obsessive plan to break the hope and pride of the Argentine people.” She had revealed similar sentiments a few days earlier, when she said, “Solutions don’t get ratings, but tragedy and large-scale suffering do.” Ruling-party leaders and government officials also went on the attack, as former President Néstor Kirchner did against La Nación newspaper. Carlos Kunkel, one of the leading legislators for pro-Kirchner forces, harshly criticized the following headline, which appeared in Clarín newspaper on December 23, 2008: “Néstor Kirchner said he was against but in the end the taxes on soybeans don’t go down.” Kunkel described this as “a mafia-like, extortionist approach.” The most serious clash between the government and the press came on November 25, when the truckers’ union — led by Hugo Moyano, the union confederation head who has close ties to the government — blocked the printing facilities of La Nación and Clarín, preventing their papers from shipping out for three hours. The unionists called for an end to “false cooperatives and fake distributors” and demanded that the employees of companies belonging to the Association of Newspaper and Magazine Distributors join the truckers’ union. This violent demonstration ended in February, when the union reached an agreement with the Ministry of Labor to have these employees join the union, which means a loss of neutrality and plurality in the distribution of newspapers and magazines. The government expressed its opposition through Security and Justice Minister Aníbal Fernández, which was interpreted as a show of support for press freedom. In recent days, the government has displayed a different posture toward its disputes and toward the media. The president attended a meeting with representatives of agribusiness to seek a solution to the serious crisis caused by the government’s attempt to raise taxes on soybean exports. Meanwhile, instructions were given for ministers to maintain a more open dialogue with journalists, though without straying from their prepared speeches. Chief of Staff Sergio Massa stated his support for this policy of greater openness and expressed his willingness to solve the problems faced by small and medium-sized newspapers. He said that government advertising would be placed more equitably in newspapers outside the capital, and that no longer would advertising be allocated selectively. Another unfortunate event occurred on February 2, when the radio program “Puntos de Vista” (Viewpoints) hosted by Nelson Castro on the radio station Del Plata was taken off the air. Castro is one of the journalists most critical of the government. The radio station changed ownership from Marcelo Tinelli to the Córdoba-based company Electroingeniería, which is linked to the government through public works contracts. This may have been triggered when the program broadcast the content of a report by the Office of the Inspector General, which noted overcharges in an Electroingeniería project to lay a high-tension cable between Río Negro and Santa Cruz. The company denied that Castro’s departure was politically motivated. The radio station’s change in ownership was closely watched — and noted with alarm — by opposition political groups, which have warned that media outlets are aligning themselves with the government through the purchase and placement of government advertising. Two opposition political leaders, Elisa Carrió and Gerardo Morales, announced in late January their plans to ask the Press Freedom Committee of the Chamber of Deputies and the IAPA to investigate “the purchase of media outlets by business groups tied to the government for the purpose of controlling radio and television stations and ushering in censorship in Argentina.” On a positive note, a judgment was handed down February 11 forcing the government to place advertising in Perfil newspaper, which is highly critical of the ruling party. This overturns a lower-court ruling that denied the injunction sought by the newspaper’s publishing company. The court held that Perfil was the victim of discrimination, and based its decision partly on a ruling by the Argentine Supreme Court against the provincial government of Neuquén for withdrawing its advertising from Río Negro newspaper. In June 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that “the government may not allocate its resources arbitrarily on the basis of irrational criteria.” The judges held that even though Perfil is only published on Saturdays and Sundays, and doesn’t match the numbers of other newspapers under the control of the Circulation Verification Institute, it does reach a significant number of readers. The Supreme Court also ordered the La Pampa provincial government to resume its advertising in a number of radio stations from which it had arbitrarily pulled out. In another positive ruling, the Supreme Court declared that a law allowing phone and Internet spying is unconstitutional. In a separate ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the right to privacy, but also said that the right to gain access to information must be observed, especially in cases related to institutional transparency. Government advertising continues to grow and is completely unregulated. One of the most serious problems is the lack of political will to move forward with a freedom of information act. Nonetheless, President Fernández de Kirchner announced plans to amend the Radio Law at the start of a special session of Congress on March 1, triggering considerable controversy and suspicion. The content of the government’s planned amendment is still unknown, and some fear it may be used to take on the media. A number of opposition political leaders stated their misgivings about the government’s hidden intentions. Two bills are pending in Congress: one by Silvana Giúdice of the Radical Civic Union, who chairs the Press Freedom Committee. The second bill is that of Silvia Vázquez, who also belongs to the Radical Civic Union but is close to the government. Neither bill was discussed.