URUGUAY In the last 12 months in Uruguay there have been no important events affecting freedom of the press or hampering the activities of journalists. As has been the case for the last several years, the media has carried out its activities without restrictions, as far as the dissemination of news and opinion is concerned. In the first half of the year, there were three verdicts against journalists for libel, defamation or disrespect. In one case, a reporter from the newspaper El Pais, was acquitted. In the other two - one against a reporter for the weekly Brecha and another against two reporters of the bi-monthly Mate Amargo - there were sentences, although none of the reporters were arrested. In the first case, however, the decision was appealed. The daily El D(ia has ceased publication. It had resumed publishing in September 1992, after a hiatus of almost two years. In Uruguay, some autonomous official agenCies persist in a discriminatory policy based on criteria that have nothing to do with technical considerations. This favors some media and prejudices others. This unequal situation cannot be justified technically and is even less justifiable since it deals with state agencies who manage public resources. The Executive Branch is concerned about the matter and previously received an IAPA protest, but the situation has been corrected only slightly. It is not known if there has been an investigation about the way official advertising is administered, which could affect the press one way or the other and result in competition on a level playing field. According to media charges, there is a similar situation with the Municipal Government of Montevideo, which is controlled by the opposition. A Uruguayan law provides for the right of reply, in cases where information is published which is "inaccurate or injurious." On the other hand, there is no licensing of journalists or any other legal requirement limiting the practice of journalism. Similarly, there is no restriction on launching and distributing newspapers. There are still taxes on certain types of newsprint, as well as other fiscal requirements that do not favor the press. There have also been some isolated incidents of police abuse which has limited the work of reporters, although government authorities and the appropriate ministry have taken steps to prevent their reoccurrence. We have left for the last the most important matter and it refers to various legislative initiatives that call for restrictions to freedom of the press, to the practice of journalism and fundamentally to the right of citizens to be informed. In recent times criticism and questions about reporters and press activities have grown in Uruguay on the part of political leaders, legislators and government officials, as well as labor and social leaders. The most serious is when this is translated into deeds. The Central Labor Union, for example, has banned the press from several of its meetings, reporters have received veiled threats from some union leaders while others try to dictate how they should report on union activities. Recently, the Chamber of Deputies approved a bill on political parties, now being taken up by the Senate, which prohibits all forms of public dissemination of opinion polls for seven days prior to an election, with penalties of one to six months in prison and an eqUivalent fine. There is already a limitation of this type for the 48 hours prior to elections, a period in which all political advertising also must cease. The bill does not affect political advertising, but does affect the dissemination of polls. A few days ago, a Senate committee took up a constitutional reform bill which protects the confidentiality of correspondence. In the case of the broadcast or publication of papers and documents of individuals without the consent of the author or owner, the person responsible cannot seek relief under journalism secrecy. The proposed amendment to the Constitution stemmed from the publication of letters of those in public office, in which they take up subjects related to their activities and which involve all citizens. There is another bill which aims at preventing media concentration and which states that no one, directly or indirectly, can own or profit from more than one communication medium. Also, two bills have been introduced which seek to regulate different communication areas. In one case, a National Communications Council would "assure the fulfillment of the basic rules of the national communications policy that is fixed by law." The other directs television channels to draft a "code of self regulation." However, the bill proposes to levy a tax on the broadcast of foreign programs. Without prejudicing these concrete initiatives, the topic of press regulation or self regulation has been the subject of parliamentary and ministerial debates. Also, the Press Association, the reporters' labor guild, continues to seek the approval of a bill, which it introduced 20 years ago, and which, on the one hand, defends the right of information, but also establishes the right of reporters to "abstain from communicating or reporting against their convictions." The programs of some of the leftist parties, moreover, contain language to control and socialize the media as basic and essential topics.