16 October 2014


The climate of press freedom continues to be adverse. There has been no end to official and semi-official attacks on those who engage in criticism, abuse in the placement of official advertising, lack of access to public information and regulatory and administrative bias. On the upside is the departure of former Secretary of Commerce Guillermo Moreno, one of the most aggressive forces driving the campaign to control the production and distribution of paper for newsprint and the advertising boycott by private sector advertisers. Also positive is the passing by Congress of a bill from the Executive to reduce Valued Added Tax quotas for printed press and the extension of an already existing system to swap debts for official advertising. Both measures improve the deteriorated economic conditions of the media. According to the Association of Argentine News Entities (ADEPA) and the Association of Inland Newspapers of the Argentine Republic (ADIR)a number of media were unfairly  left out of the deal – two in the first case and all the digital ones along with 16 publications in the second case. The stigmatization and indictment by the government of certain media for reporting on questions that are uncomfortable for those in power continues to be common practice. President Cristina Kirchner and senior public officials, such as the Chief of Cabinet, constantly suggest that some media, along with other sectors of society, are concocting destabilizing maneuvers. These are accusations that involve risks for the physical integrity of journalists. Encroachment is another of the tools used to go after dissidents and it has reached the point that the official organization La Cámpora, with funds that are presumed to be public ones, finances unauthentic editions of media such as Clarín to attack the newspaper itself and opposition political leaders. While there is a information marginalization of some media it lessened this year. A number of officials appeared for the first time on certain television programs and granted interviews to graphic media which they used to discriminate against. The periodic conferences given by the Chief of Cabinet while often used to insult critical press also are a counterpoint in the official communication policy. The President continues to avoid, with certain exceptions and in restrictive ways, having open press conferences. In a video conference, held in conjunction with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, she declared that it is necessary “to have direct access to information without intermediaries who want to show things differently.” Although some media excluded from placement of official advertising today are receiving a portion of it, the levels of a discretional nature in its award and the disproportion regarding any objective basis continue to be very high. This pertains to the federal government and to provincial governments. In 2014 the federal government has consumed 140 of the 185 million dollars budgeted, after successive modifications of the original estimates, for official advertising. The percentage consumed is greater than with respect to the170 million budgeted for Football for All, the official program that nationalized the televising of first division soccer games and which has the government as exclusive advertiser of its broadcasts. If to these accounts are added the funds used for the operation of publicly-owned media, largely dedicated to give voice to the official discourse and harass those who question it, and for the maintenance of bodies linked to communication, involved were 600 million dollars set aside for the government’s official communication policy. Placement of official advertising, which already in the first half of this year surpassed 60% of that of 2013, continues to favor the less critical media. Excesses and arbitrary action in the administration of official advertising are found in areas governed by representatives of various political stances, such as in the provinces of Córdoba, San Juan, Mendoza and Buenos Aires, as well as the Federal District, where during the current government it has grown by 1000% to reach 70 million dollars. In Formosa the media coordinator pressured local radio stations to broadcast a spot on the treatment of uranium, threatening them with advertising restrictions. The Supreme Court has issused several rulings that prohibit this kind of use of public funds. It has not achieved that such practices be eliminated. Five years after the enactment of the Audiovisual Communication Services Law there are noted to be suggestive lacks of definition and delays in its application. Throughout all this time there has not been an equitable treatment of companies that must comply with what has been established by law.  A new chapter was added early in October when the application authority rejected the plan of voluntary adherence to the law by the Grupo Clarín, initiating a transfer of function of the audiovisual media that it consists of. On declaring the constitutionality of the articles of the law that had been questioned by Clarín the Argentine Supreme Court said that the application authority must respect the equality of treatment and act with independence of the government and of any pressure group. The application authority is not complying with the Court’s demands in delaying the  review of the adaptation plans presented by other media on granting new deadlines to some of them and on promptly resolving the discretional splitting up of a group of media. Attacks by guards of Vice President Amado Boudou on Carolina Ponce de León, who ended up with two fractured ribs, and the attempt to apply the anti-terrorist law to Juan Pablo Suárez are two cases of concern in a long list of attacks on and intimidation of journalists. The law on access to public information continues to be pending.