ARGENTINA The Argentine press has been compelled to go to court to defend its freedom, following a string of verdicts, most of them adverse. Following is a summary of the developments: -At the end of July, the Argentine press categorically rejectedbills aimed at limiting the publication of electoral opinion polls in the days prior to voting. It warned that these initiatives "clearly and arbitrarily restrict the legitimate practice of freedom of expression about topics of relevant institutional interest." - The press requested Congress withdraw these bills, which if enacted, would have ban the dissemination of polls 48 hours before the election as well as prohibit the broadcast of exit polls until three hours after the end of voting. - The bills under consideration in Congress would fine violators from 10,000 to 100,000 pesos, which at the current one-to-one rate of exchange, equals $10,000 to $100,000. On May 13, Ricardo Gangeme, editor of the weekly EI Informador Chubutense in Trelew, Chubut province, was shot to death. He had been rpeorting on alleged corruption involving local companies, including a power and light cooperative, but according to magistrate Omar Florencio Minatta investigators are looking into a number of possible motives given the victim's wide range of activities. There have been no arrests to date. Gangeme was the second journalist to be murdered in a little more than two years; news photographer Jose Luis Cabezas was killed in 1968, with those responsible still at large. In August, an administrative judge, Emilia Garcia, suspended the broadcast of an extensive advertising campaign lauding the performance of President Carlos Menem's decade of rule. Described as "an act of judicial censorship," her ruling is at odds with the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court, the highest in the land. The national press maintained that "independent of the content of the campaign, banning it is unacceptable." -On August 10, the Argentine press expressed its "displeasure" over a Supreme Court verdict in a case instituted by President Menem against Horacio Verbitsky, a journalist. Five years earlier, a news article identifying a source reported that Menem had not been tortured while Argentine was under military rule. Previously, Menem had said he was tortured. The suit was thrown out by a lower court, a decision upheld by an appeals court. Referring to the high court ruling, the Argentine press said: "The verdict contradicts the rulings by two lower courts as well as other rulings by the Supreme Court." "It is worrisome that the highest court of the land places conditions on freedom of expression, thus casting a pall of judicial insecurity on newsmen and deepening the public's sense of vulnerability before the institutions of the Republic." -The sentence handed down by a Tucuman court against La Gaceta "sets a judicial precedent which poses a great risk to the future of press freedom, not only in the province but also throughout the country." The national press expressed that, "It is hoped that the Superior Provincial Court overturns the ruling." -A Tucuman civil, commercial court upheld the lower court ruling ordering the publisher to pay 150,000 pesos in punitive damages. The morning daily published the statements of three persons who alleged having been victims of the plaintiff's demand for payment of professional fees, which led to the attachment of part of their salaries. The court considered that the photographs and headlines constituted the opinions of the newspaper. In actuality, they summarized the remarks of the three who complained to the daily. The Economy Ministry's resolution 416/99, which deregulates the marketing of newspapers and magazines, is particularly important. The previous system was crippled by 50-year-old rules imposed at a time when the country was shaped by totalitarianism. -The independent, free press prominently played the decision of the C6rdoba provincial court, which on September 9 issued" a fundamental verdict to safeguard press freedom," by admitting for the first time in the province - absence of malice as a defense. The ruling has been appealed to the federal Supreme Court. -The court overturned a sentence by a lower court against La Voz del Interior editor Luis Remonda, who had been sentenced to a one-month jail term for libel. The higher court also overturned a ruling that ordered the journalist and the paper's publisher to pay damages. The case revolved around a story about the murder of C6rdoba Senator Regino Maders and its possible explanation, alluding to alleged links to former policemen and the operation of underground gambling. - In August, a divisional court of the National Labor Chamber overturned a precautionary measure imposed at a lower level, which acting on a complaint by news vendors, had banned the free distribution of the daily La Raz6n at a train station. It underscored that the distribution and sale of newspapers and magazines at newsstands is not the only permissible way to provide the publications. It added that news organizations" as in this case, can provide newspapers free to their readers, should they so desire, in exercising their rights of ownership and without such behavior being subject to censorship on the grounds that there are no measures which restrict their freedom in this regard." -Federal justice officials in C6rdoba detected incidents of spying on politicians, businessmen, union officials and journalists. The investigation contained information demonstrating that news organizations fell under the illegal scrutiny practiced by military and civilian members of an intelligence unit of the 3,d Army Corps. - Judge Cristina Garz6n de Lascano opened an investigation and requested that the Army identify the spies, whose code names were S17, A44 and Mara. Under the military dictatorship, she noted, there was spying on witnesses and relatives of journalists and people who had disappeared.