Press freedom was affected during this period by two court decisions against freedom of expression, a government project to control on the contents of radio and television broadcasts, the announcement by the new government that it will have a new telecommunications law passed, without specifying what it will cover, and continuing difficulties for the media and journalists to access public information. The period included the most heated part of the political campaign that ended on the last Sunday of 2009, with the election of the ex-Tupamaro guerilla fighter José Mujica as the new President of the Republic. During the campaign, both Mujica of the governing Broad Front party, and his rival, Luis Alberto Lacalle (of the opposition National Party) kept up disputes and disagreements with the press. In February, the Supreme Court of Justice ordered a private television channel and two journalists, Ignacio Alvarez and Gabriel Pereira of Channel 10, to pay a compensation of US$ 5,000 to an ex-criminal court judge, Ana Lima, for moral harm due to their having reported five years ago on one of her decisions in a child abuse case. The great concern of individuals, analysts, and organizations was based on the arguments used by the Justices of the Court, who did not recognize the new legislation in effect since 2009 on freedom of the press, contradicting the jurisprudence of the Inter American Court of Human Rights, the observance of which has been mandated on the judges by the new law. The report had been titled “The Other Side of Child Abuse” on the program “Zona Urbana” of May 18, 2005, in which the case was mentioned of a man who had been tried and sent to prison by the judge, but who spent six months in jail before being absolved by a higher court that found him not guilty. The Court decided to punish the media and the journalists for using words that it considered “improper” because it understood that the information lacked “public interest.” In its decision it also warned that common citizens do not have sufficient “qualification” to issue opinions on the “correctness or not of court decisions.” The Court used arguments such as that “public interest” in the news “must be useful and timely not only for the reporter, but also qualified as an urgent social need,” and that “abuse, in general, means to ‘use badly, excessively, unjustly and unduly’ the right” to freedom of expression and that “the greatest prudence, proportionality, and reasonableness in the exercise thereof” must be demanded of journalists due to the “indubitably harmful” potential that such freedom gives the mass media because of the “social power that they have to generate public opinion.” Channel 10 decided to make the US$ 5,000 payment to relieve the convicted reporters of the liability, because the company maintains that “the journalists acted correctly.” It is surprising that a journalist was sentenced for “libel” against a public servant to five years of prison, sentence suspended, when the laws now in effect in the country have decriminalized offenses committed through the press. President José Mujica announced his intention to sanction a new telecommunications law in Uruguay during his term, without specifying its contents. Mujica said that “the State cannot wash its hands” of this matter and must “mark the playing field.” “We cannot leave this up to the market. It is obvious that if we leave it to the strongest, they will appropriate everything to themselves,” he warned. His wife, the first lady and the first female senator of the government party, Lucia Topolansky, had already said that Uruguay needs “urgently to have a basic law” on this subject. “That great orchestra (of the communications media) has to be organized” by the State because “it cannot be such a chaotic thing,” she affirmed. In the meantime, the law on access to public information, which went into effect in 2008, is not being respected by the agencies of the State, which are obligated thereby to provide information requested by the press or ordinary citizens. Most notable events during this period: On November 10, the government of Cuba put out a “black list” and declared that a Uruguayan journalist of El Observador, Particia Madrid, was a “persona non grata,” preventing her from covering a Global Forum on Health Research, which was being held in Havana the next week. The journalist explained that when she applied for her visa at the Cuban Embassy in Montevideo, a diplomatic worker told her that she could not conduct “journalistic activities” if she went to the island. On November 12, it was reported that the second-level judge Marta Haedo Alonso had declared “expired” the intention to sue for damages and losses brought by ex-Senator of the governing party Leonardo Nicolini and his son, Leonardo Nicolini de la Cuesta, against the independent weekly Búsqueda. In February, 2007 Búsqueda had published an article called “A senator of the government party was hospitalized without cost in a government hospital after having obtained an indigent card (and) after his operation, returning it.” It was reported in the article that the senator in question was Nicolini, who held his seat as a representative of the governing Movement for Popular Participation (MPP), and added other information such as the fact that his son had made a false sworn statement. Nicolini left his seat in the Senate, made to resign by the leaders of the MPP. He was also questioned for the crime of fraud and the prosecutor in the case sought his prosecution, but a judge denied the request. On November 16, security personnel of presidential candidate José Mujica and of the mayor of Montevideo, Ricardo Ehrlich, physically attacked two photographers while they were covering the inauguration of “Liber Seregni Square.” On November 23, President Tabaré Vázquez sent a bill to the Parliament for the “promotion of national culture in film, radio, and television” for the purpose of guaranteeing “access to cultural diversity as an essential human right” and promote “the multiple and particular values of Uruguayan society.” The law would create an obligatory quota of 50% of domestic programming for private television channels (70% for public channels), of which 20% must be fiction (30% for public channels). In addition, it requires the production of soap operas and series based on Uruguayan fiction. Upon sending the bill to the Parliament, the government alluded to “the existence of big transnational monopolies, with essentially commercial and mercantile criteria, which concentrate the property of cultural companies and which have available powerful networks that direct and control the production and distribution of content at a global level.” The bill contemplates the obligation of private over-the-air television channels to broadcast 50% of their programming with domestic production or co-production, including the categories of news, sports, reviews, varieties, journalism, documentaries, contests, entertainment, and all types of fiction. At the same time, it sets a minimum of 20% for domestic fiction, including in this category feature-length films, short subjects, telefilms, soap operas, serials, comedies, drama, crime programs, humor programs, musical videoclips, and broadcast of national shows (theater, opera, recitals, concerts, carnival, and others). The initiative contemplates the creation of an “Institute of Cultural Mediation”(IMC) as an agency loosely linked to the Executive Branch, composed of three members named by the Executive Branch whose nominations would be approved by a simple majority of the General Assembly. Sanctions contemplated go from simple notice up to revocation of the license. It also contemplates application of fines in an amount that can reach as high as US$ 100,000. On November 29, President Tabaré Vázuez criticized the press for having reported on a decision by the state-owned Banco Hipotecario (BHU) to give his brother a loan of some US$ 130,000 to buy a new house in a residential neighborhood of Montevideo “for reasons of security.” According to the President, his government is conducting a “war to the death” against narco-trafficking and his brother Jorge Vázquez, Deputy Chief of Staff of the President’s Office, is one of those responsible for policies in this field. On December 11, the Argentine ambassador to Uruguay, Hernán Patriño Mayer, publically and continuously accused of interfering in Uruguayan politics through his unabashed support of the governing party candidate José Mujica, attacked the newspaper “El País,” which he accused of having tried to “get political traction in an embarrassing way ” out of a conflict between Argentina and Uruguay over the installation of a Finnish paper mill. The newspaper considered “unheard-of” the way in which the Argentine diplomat performs his mission. On January 10, the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, accused the Uruguay-Bolivian journalist Emilio Martinez of being an “agent of imperialism” for having published a book, Citizen X, in which he critically details the political process by which a coca leader became the head of state. Citizen X was one of the most widely sold books in 2008 and 2009 in Bolivia. On February 22, journalist Rodrigo Morales, editor of the weekly Tres Puntos of Paysandú (380 km. northeast of Montevideo) was given a suspended sentence of five months of prison for the crime of “slander” after having published, a year earlier, information about the supposed involvement of police officials in drug trafficking. On January 8, 2009, Tres Puntos reported that two police officers had been arrested for trying to bring a load of cocaine into the country from Argentina. The weekly had added that other police officers might have been involved in the crime and mentioned explicitly assistant chief Ricardo Coelho. On January 22, 2009, Tres Puntos added more information about Coelho’s supposed ties to the case. On February 23, judge Homero Rivero from the city of San José (100 km northeast of Montevideo) ordered the city government to turn over to David Rabinovich, the editor of the local newspaper, San José Hoy, information of public interest on assistance provided to poor persons and families since 2004, with the support of the law of access to public information now in effect. The judge’s order has yet to be carried out. On March 11, the first lady and senator, Lucia Topolansky, attacked the press after having stated that she is against keeping military officers in prison who are accused of violating human rights during the dictatorship (1973-1985) and after proposing approval of a legal “tool” to allow judges to decide whether to leave those individuals in prison or to allow them to serve house arrest. Topolansky’s declarations met considerable resistance in the governing party Broad Front. Then, the first lady said that the press “interpreted whatever they wanted to interpret” and lamented that “people believe that the press tells the truth. Unfortunately, they believe it.” On March 12 the Organization of the Press from the Interior (OPI), issued a declaration protesting the ineffectiveness that the law on access to public information is having, due to the failure to observe it on the part of public agencies.