57th General Assembly Washington, DC October 12 – 16, 2001 URUGUAY The greatest threat to freedom of the press has arisen out of the executive branch’s efforts in the form of a bill that would levy value added tax (VAT) on newspapers and magazines. The bill is currently before Parliament as part of a package of measures that seek to both broaden the VAT’s scope and lower the current rate of 23%  one of the highest in the world  to 19%. The government’s announcement drew an immediate reaction from all of Uruguay’s media outlets, the Inter-American Press Association, journalists’ associations and their member journalists, and sellers of magazines and daily newspapers. Without exception they warned the authorities and the public that the measure would spell the certain demise of a great many publications, lead to higher unemployment in a sector where it is already at intolerable levels, and constitute a direct attack on freedom of expression with the disappearance of many channels of communication and forums for the expression of ideas. The bill is being debated at a time when the print media are not immune to the effects of the deep recession affecting each of the different sectors of Uruguay’s economy, some of which are harder hit as a result of sector-specific factors. While some national and local government entities unfortunately continue to discriminate in the placement of advertising – and quite scandalously so in some cases – others which now apply technical criteria have scaled back their public notices to the bare minimum, with adverse consequences for the independent press. The private sector, suffering under the effects of the recession, has likewise cut back sharply on advertising. Newspaper and magazine sales have dropped as consumers tighten their belts and the price of the publications rises with the imposition of the VAT to levels that are “very nearly not viable,” El País declared on its editorial page. The Uruguayan Press Association went even further and warned that levying VAT on newspaper and magazine sales would amount to a “death sentence for the nation’s print media.” In another connection, the wave of litigation against the press continues under Press Law 16099, which IAPA has characterized at prior meetings as “abridging” freedom of speech but is still in effect. Generally speaking, judges have been extremely generous in granting the right of reply, which was established in the same press law under the dictatorship. In one case the magazine Búsqueda was forced to appeal in May to a higher court, which invalidated the trial court judge’s decision and released the magazine from having to publish a government official’s reply. Meanwhile, a number of complaints are pending against journalists and the media, some demanding hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.