ARGENTINA Since the restoration of democracy in 1983, there is freedom of press in Argentina. However, the conditions of physical and psychological security in which journalists have carried out their activities have frequently deteriorated, during these last 10 years, in the months just prior to national elections. This happened in 1985, during the last radical government, and happened this year, during the election campaign that preceded the rallies of October 3. There were a large number of anonymous threats to print and broadcast media. Among the most serious cases, was the atttack on journalists and writers at the Argentina Rural Exposition in August and the two beatings suffered by Hernan L6pez Echague - once when he was kidnapped. L6pez Echague had been investigating the alleged use of the Buenos Aires Central Market for political purposes by local leaders of the Justicialista Party. The events which occurred at the Rural Exposition involved shock troops of the government party. The release of one of those detained by police in these incidents indicates that Justicialista officials were involved. Episodes of this nature were widely reported in the press. This indicates the general conditions in which Argentine journalism is carried out and also shows that acts aimed at intimidating the press are far from achieving their goal. There were some acts of violence following the October 3 elections. In one of these cases, photographers Rafael Yohai, of La Nación and Manuel Fernandez, of the official news service Telam, were attacked while covering a meeting of the Federal Capital committee of the Civic Radical Union (UCR), the main opposition party. Unlike other incidents of this type, the assailant was identified by party officials. But recently, photographers and film crews were attacked by police troops during a celebration. The Interior Minister ordered an investigation while making three policemen available. Journalists who covered the kidnapping of San Luis Province Governor Rodriguez Saa have also been subjected to intimidation. At a time when the government considers media criticism unjustified, charges have been made that a substantial portion of journalism is dominated by the illegal and politically unpleasant image of the monopolies. The media has responded that nothing could be further from the truth and the spirit which prevails in Argentine journalism. More than a hundred dailies, at least that many weeklies and magazines and numerous radio and television stations which blanket the world in comparison with the density of the population reliably demonstrate the plurality of the Argentine press. As an immediate byproduct of the difference of opinion with the government, the latter sent to Congress a controversial radio and television bill. Under the pretext of regulating the technical aspects of the media, the bill repeats the serious flaw of legislation now in effect to regulate the contents of spoken reports on radio and television. Moreover, the bill creates a "Committee for the Defense of Freedom of Expression," with the power to apply sanctions. President Menem decided to distance the government from two initiatives that seriously concern Argentine journalism. One of these proposes to introduce "the right of true information" into the project to reform the Argentine Constitution, now under consideration in Congress. Since the introduction of this concept in the Constitution of the former Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia, the "right of information" does not consist simply of the right to require the state to disseminate its actions, but also to require that the print media disseminate all opinions and information that are in the public interest from the state's perspective. Another initiative that seriously concerns the press and on which the President has promised to lend all offiCial support, is the introduction of the so-called right to reply in the unification of the civil and commercial codes presently under study by the Congress. Article 117 of this bill says that any individual who has been affected by inexact or harmful information has the right to have his rectification or reply published by the same publication. What is deliberately left unsaid in this bill is that current legislation already protects the privacy and honor of individuals. The Argentine press questions the project because the system of compulsory refutations provides ample opportunity for the media to lose its identity, thus running the risk of losing to third parties its right to edit freely. It is hoped Congress will not approve the so-called right of reply. Approval would be to stray from the correct path which has been followed this year when the old criminal image of disrespect has been abolished. This image, so inappropriate for a government whose origin proclaims the equality of citizens before the law, has been absent from the Argentine penal legislation with the favorable vote of legislators from both the governing party and the opposition. There is, on the other hand, the delay by Congress in passing a law which guarantees the professional secrecy of journalists. There are numerous bills in that direction in the Congress. This underlines that only a final push is needed to form a majority that favors the recognition of professional secrecy. There is a disturbing situation in Rio Negro where freedom of the press is threatened by several government measures that range from legal actions to undercover methods designed to intimidate the press. In the judicial realm, there have been contradictory rulings on freedom of the press. On a favorable note, the following should be mentioned for their importance: Two rulings of the Supreme Court on October 24 which reaffirmed that the doctrine protecting the honor of individuals is more attenuated when those persons are not simple individuals but someone in the public eye and when the media reports on topics of general interest, or of significance for republican institutions. In both cases, in lower courts, the news service DyN had been ordered to indemnify the alleged damages caused by disseminating to the print media news related to the government's actions and to well known figures in public life. These rulings of the highest court are in line with its doctrine already expressed this year in the cases of "Gutheim vs Alemann," "Perez Arriaga vs Arte Grafica Editora," and "Perez Arriaga vs La Prensa," in which it reaffirmed the right of news publications to report on topics of public interest although such publications focus on aspects of the individual's right to privacy. The ruling handed down by the Second Chamber of the Criminal Court of General Roca, Rio Negro province, which acquitted Dr. Julio Rajneri, editor of the daily RIO Negro, of libel charges. The court said that if even if there is no impunity for someone who uses the press as a medium to commit a crime, responsibility can still be placed on those who disseminate reports which are inaccurate or harmful to the reputation of an individual without proving fraud or negligence and when the publication refers to topics of public interest or when a public official was offended. The following court rulings, however, cause concern: The Supreme Court decided, in the case "La Nueva Provincia," that freedom of the press is not restricted by the resolutions of the Labor Ministry, such as number 919/90, which prohibits newspapers from selling their editions on Newsboy Day. By blocking the dissemination and sale of newspapers, even though only for one day a year, the court compromised itself with an act of censorship and thus interfered with freedom of the press established by the Constitution. Even worse, the sentence of the high court was based on resolutions 455/76 and 919/90, which had been expressly revoked by resolution 1050/9l. Another disquieting ruling was handed down by a provincial court of La Pampa, which obliged the daily La Arena, of Santa Rosa to publish free of charge a judicial edict. La Arena published the edict, whose dissemination had been compulsory, but made it known that it was in disagreement with the judicial order, considering it harmful to the right of property and an act of censorship, which is prohibited in article 14 of the Constitution.