IAPA Midyear Meeting 2017

Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala

March 31 – April 3


In 2016 there were 65 direct attacks on freedom of expression according to the monitoring by the Argentine Journalism Forum. The leading attackers on journalists were provincial officials, police forces and political activists during coverage of public demonstrations. This figure is less than half of the annual average of attacks during the Cristina Kirchner administration.

Among the most serious physical attacks reported during the period were one on the cameraman of Canal 2 television in Jujuy province, who suffered serious cuts and burns when hit by a bomb while covering a protest; the injuries to Martín Grande, director of FM89.9 of Salta province, who had his nose fractured in a beating carried out by Sebastián Ramos, son of a provincial congress member; Todo Noticias Web site reporter Nicolás Wiñazki, who was beaten up as he was making coverage in the city of La Plata; photographer José Granata of Télam news agency, who was hit by rubber bullets fired by police forces during his coverage of a protest march in the city of Rosario; journalists Sandra Borghi, Mercedes Ninci and Gonzalo Aziz of Todo Noticias, who were threatened and insulted while covering public demonstrations; journalists Mauro Zeta and Ricardo Canaletti of C5N and Todo Noticias, who were threatened by members of a criminal gang in a video that was publicly circulated.Photographer Rubén Paredes of the newspaper Crónica was injured by a noise bomb in a clash between police and demonstrators. Other photographers and reporters of the same group were attacked during a conflict between police and local residents and coverage of an automobile accident. On November 16 the car of journalist Gloria de los Ríos of FM Horizonte in San Lorenzo, Santa Fe province, was set afire just a few feet from her home, in a clear attempt to scare her.

On March 27 the Santa Fe newspaper El Litorial reported an attack on its online version that consisted of the publication of an anonymous threatening message on its front page that warned of a supposed attempt to "silence" the media outlet for "news that really bothers." In the note there is also a threat to Lucila Nuzzo, a member of the Public Prosecutor's Office, presumably concerning investigations linked to a gang of credit card swindlers. The El Litoral Web site remained out of service for several hours.

The Formosa government mounted an attack against journalists that demonstrated their concerns on the Facebook social network at the cutting of electrical supply that prevented the broadcast of the program "Sin censura" (Without Censorship). Detained for several hours was that program's photographer Bruno Ciancaglini in Mar del Plata after having photographed police officers taking part in an operation.

The security protocol put into effect last year by the Security Ministry, advised by civil organizations representing the press sector, was activated given the detection of two cases of journalists, whose identity has been kept secret, finding themselves in danger because of their work.

A Grupo Clarín print plant was blockaded by former employees. They also destroyed presses of the Kollor Press printing firm and staged another attack on two graphics workshops.

Approval of the law on access to public information in September was a relevant milestone for a country in which there had been systematically obstructed for more than a decade advances in this matter. This first step was complemented several days ago by its being put into effect on the part of the Executive Branch.

While there continues to be pending passage of a law with clear and objective guidelines that would prevent discretionary and propaganda use by the government through the discrimination in official advertising, a resolution by the Executive Branch and passage of a bill to regulate the official rules, in line with inter-American standards, are relevant steps to rationalize the use of public resources that had been used in an arbitrary manner during the previous administration. During 2016 there were distributed 756 million pesos, equivalent to a little more than $50 million, the lowest of the past five-year period. News companies discriminated against during the Kirchner era once again received official advertising.

In late October the Supreme Court rejected a claim for damages and losses filed by an advertising model against Google and Yahoo for alleged violation of her rights to a good name and privacy, which she felt were harmed by the placing of photos of her on pornographic Web sites. The Court held that the activities of Internet search engines is protected by the constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression and that it is inadmissible to establish a preventative measure that requires these companies to filter or block contents. In the previous months provincial courts ruled in line with the doctrine of the Court in cases brought against these companies. In an opposite sense the Federal No. 2 Civil and Commercial Court ordered Twitter to suppress certain images and comments regarding a model, which amounted to a case of censorship, according to what was reported by the Association of Argentine News Entities (Adepa).

Another relevant ruling by the Supreme Court, which was made public in February, was the dismissal of a submission by the Foreign Relations Ministry in which it was requested that as a consequence of the ruling by the Inter-American Court made in the lawsuit "Fontevecchia and others vs. Argentine Republic" there be left without effect a firm ruling of the Supreme Court. The majority of the justices considered that to accept the petition would imply turning the Inter-American Court into a "fourth tribunal" reviser of the rulings of the Argentine courts. It also said that its sentences have the authority of a judged matter, not susceptible to being altered by other jurisdictions, and made clear that the decisions of the Inter-American Court must be complied with by the government through the Congress and the Executive Branch, as occurred in this case.

Unlike in other times, officials, beginning with the Argentine President, had an attitude of openness in the face of requests for interviews or the provision of information of public interest.