This year, 2016, has seen a radical turnaround in the relationship between the government and the media. The coming period also marks the conclusion of the darkest time for freedom of expression since the restoration of democracy. The new administration has, thus far, upheld the Constitution and the law in its relationship with the press, thus replacing an era of harassment and systematic disregard for the public's right to information.
The Kirchner government left multiple distortions in the press sector. From 2003 to 2015 official advertising saw an exponential growth and was transformed for many media in an essential fuel for their financial viability. The progressive reorganization of he amounts and the reassignment of the funds, on the basis of objective criteria that prioritize efficiency in the communication, implied an economic blow for media. Some of them were controlled by businessmen that took advantage of the official cash flow in exchange for subordinating their editorial stance to government interests. As a fruit of this combination several of them not only washed their hands of the viability of their companies but they rushed to fire journalists, sell or shut down.
The Media of the Nation Secretariat issued a resolution that put limits on state powers regarding the awarding of official advertising. This placed restrictions on the use of funds and established a mechanism that indicates a transparent distribution based on guidelines concerning levels and types of audiences, the relevance of the message, the geographic frame and encouraging federalism and plurality of voices along the lines of inter-American standards.
However, the resolution does not contemplate an autonomous and independent system of control and calls on the media, although not as an inexorable condition, that these assign, if they subscribe to codes of ethics, an undue interference in contents, a relevant step that would require compliance with the sanctioning of a law.
Added to all of this should be gestures and actions that repair the damaged institutional link between journalism and the authorities. Recovered were press conferences of the President and his ministers as a periodical practice. Recovered was fluidity and transparency in public information and eliminated were the arbitrary interventions in the elaboration of main indices that enable measurement of the results of the administration. The political debate was given oxygen, respect for criticism was recovered and there was increase in the spaces to express it. In this regard what stands out is the lack of participation of the public media that the current government encourages, dispensing with all intent to manipulate their editorial stances, and the gesture, at the initiative of the IAPA and Adepa, of the signing of the Declaration of Chapultepec by President Mauricio Macri.
The delayed passage of a law on access to public information is one of the most noted novelties of the year regarding freedom of expression. After a decade and a half of delays, which turned the country into one of the three in South America that did not have a law of this kind, Congress approved a law with multiple virtues. It establishes a clear and executive mechanism to make requests for information, sets terms and reasonable exceptions, calls for a clear presentation of public data, requires maintenance of an active information policy and creates a transparency control mechanism through an autonomous body.
In the last six months there were acts of intimidation of journalists. Among the most serious there should be mentioned the shooting up of the home of journalist Emanuel Soverchia of the weekly El Informe in the town of Cañada de Gómez, Santa Fe province, and the anonymous threats to Luis Majul as he was interviewing a protected witness in one of the principal corruption cases.
In the middle of a stage in which there proliferated court cases and investigations linked to offenses committed by officials of the previous government and also cases of drug trafficking what was especially opportune was the recent launch of a protocol to protect the work of the press drawn up by the Ministry of National Security.
It is worth adding that 20 months since the murder of public prosecutor Alberto Nisman, a case that we have highlighted in previous IAPA reports, the Argentine press continues strongly joining requests for its clarification.