ARGENTINA Several legal actions have affected the exercise of freedom of expression during this period. On February 2 the Court of Appeals, seated in Dolores, sentenced the murderer of Noticias photographer José Luis Cabezas to life in prison, along with his main accomplices. Also sentenced to life imprisonment for the January 25, 1997, crime was the secondary instigator of the murder, encouraged by Alfredo Yabrán, the powerful businessman and friend of top-ranking government officials. Comparable penalties were ordered for others involved in the slaying. Dr. Raúl Begué was the presiding judge, assisted by judges Jorge Dupuy and Susana Darling Yantone. Other court decisions, however, have not been favorable to freedom of the press. Saúl Santesteban, editor of the newspaper La Arena de Santa Rosa in La Pampa, was fined for divulging the name of a minor with a criminal record who was wanted by the police. Judge Verónica Fantini acknowledged the lack of malice on Santesteban’s part as well as his intention to protect public safety. But she adhered to the letter of laws whose effectiveness in protecting the privacy of minors is questionable. Curiously, the police personnel who provided the information were sanctioned much less than the journalist. Criminal Court No. 2 in Catamarca ordered the newspaper La Unión to pay damages of $12,000 to a resident who alleged he was offended by a letter published in the paper. The daily had offered the plaintiff the right to reply. Such heavy sentences of doubtful justification cast a discouraging mantle over the national media. Singularly harmful has been the ruling of the National Civil Court of Appeals upholding a lower court ruling against journalist Bernardo Neustadt and radio network Telefé. The lawsuit focused on the remarks, allegedly offensive, spoken by a person who appeared on the program “Tiempo Nuevo.” The court thus rejected the precedents of Campillay and the doctrine of actual malice by condemning not the author of the alleged injury but the person who provides a citizen the possibility to express himself freely but under his own responsibility. Conversely, Civil Judge Miguel Prada Errecart ruled, based on precedents that begin with the Campillay case, that broadcasting inaccurate news in which the original source is quoted, is not a crime. The judge also stated that the media cannot be expected to verify the absolute truth of every news item before publishing it. To do so could be so complicated as to restrict freedom of information excessively, he said. Early in November the city of Buenos Aires legislature passed an electoral campaign law that bans, in Article 5, the publication of exit polls until three hours after voting has ended. There are hopeful signs that draft bills intended to add the concept of malicious intent into civil law will change the framework of liability and favor the watchdog role of the press. Worrisome is the draft of what is called the “announcer law,” which already has won partial approval in the Chamber of Deputies. The bill has a totalitarian thrust, because it excludes the citizen in favor of a sort of mandatory licensing. In practice, it would deliver radio stations into the hands of a privileged group at the expense of the rights of journalists. Such efforts are unconstitutional to the degree that they frustrate the freedom to work and of expression in the media. There have been insulting remarks such as those voiced by the Security Minister of Buenos Aires, Aldo Rico. He threatened to have journalists pursued by the police. Events involving former soccer star Diego Armando Maradona in Punta del Este led to lamentable incidents, including a melee in which journalists and photographers were attacked. Frank Varise, a reporter for La Nación, of Buenos Aires, has received death threats. He was investigating the activities of a mafia group dedicated to major cattle rustling with the alleged complicity of senior officers of the Santiago del Estero police. Coming so soon after the murder of Cabezas, such threats cannot be taken lightly. Organized crime focused on cattle theft has infected several provinces; the activities of the criminals suggest extraordinary power and mysterious alliances.