Report to the IAPA Midyear Meeting
March 29 to 31
Cartagena, Colombia
In this period there was concern at the accumulation of legal claims directed at news media concerning the elimination of contents of their online editions. There had not been up to now precedents of outlines embraced by the judiciary. In the last half-year there was notification of two precautionary measures against newspapers of the city of Buenos Aires and of inland Argentina referring to lawsuits that invoke the so-called "right to oblivion," in which there is ordered the de-indexation of contents. One case is tied to the request of a plastic surgeon accused of bad practice by three of his patients, the another one to information about the trial of a Tucamán province legislator who was dismissed in a lawsuit for having drugs. The measures go against Point 9 of the IAPA's Salta Declaration which indicates that the de-indexation of information on matters of public interest goes against the right to information.
There were other judicial matters that configured cases of censorship. In late October Judge Luis Carzoglio prohibited news media from disseminating information and images of a person accused of acts of corruption, going against basic constitutional precepts and an extensive precedent. On the same line a sentence issued in January this year by Judge María Edith Rodríguez in Salta province imposed censorship on online newspapers Ver Noticias and Aerom, in prohibiting all publication and dissemination that is considered offensive regarding the mayor of the capital of that province. In addition she ordered the elimination of the information present on those sites which, in the judge's view, exceeded the aim of criticizing the public governance.
There have been repeated trial court rulings in the civil jurisdiction that do not recognize the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court and established doctrines such as that of "real malice," in making journalists and media responsible. A representative case occurred in February, when Judge Fernando Christello imposed financial indemnification in favor of a former federal minister. The legal decision was against journalists Jorge Lanata, Nicolás Wiñazki and the news media where they worked, due to a news report issued during the official's term in office. The ruling in addition ordered publication of a retraction text in the media in which the report had appeared, for having disseminated what in the judge's opinion amounts to "false news." The ruling was of concern in that it confuses inaccurate information with deliberate dissemination of false information or campaigns of habitual disinformation in the digital area.
Impreba, the editor of the daily newspaper Diario Popular, denounced that as a result of the legal claim of a private individual for legal fees, and from the attempt to apply debt determination formulas far from the economic reality, there is a risk that it will end up consecrating a virtual confiscatory abuse over the company's assets. The situation is worrying as long as it can threaten the continuity of a journalistic medium, the subsistence of an informative voice and the maintenance of numerous sources of work.
On the legislative front there lost parliamentary status the bill on "responsibility of the intermediaries" which clashed with the jurisprudence of the Argentine Supreme Court and world trends on the matter, in making digital platforms responsible for the contents.
In the framework of the legislative debate on the political financing regime, different political blocs of the Congress presented initiatives that seek to balance the space of digital journalistic media with that of platforms and social networks in electoral campaigns.
Regarding attacks on media and journalists the Argentine Journalism Forum's annual report recorded 51 attacks during 2018. Almost half of them had as victims journalists that made on-the-street news coverage. And a similar percentage corresponds to attacks of a political nature, having as aggressors officials or activists. In that period there was recorded also the first case in which a race attack with violence was denounced. It was put together through an audio distributed among his supporters by the mayor of Puerto Iguazú in Misiones province, in which he asked that they sexually abuse female journalist Norma Devechi, of the newspaper El Territorio.
In the follow-up that is made by the Association of Argentine News Entitites (ADEPA) outstanding are in these last six months the physical attacks suffered by journalists Jorge Mielnizuk of Canal 12 channel of Misiones; Gonzalo Medina of Diario Huarpe newspaper of San Juan; Cristian Balbo of América TV; Hernán Lancelotte and Jorge Welbers of Canal 26 channel; Franco Fatsuli of Infobae; Barnandino Ávila of Página12 and Lucas Martínez of El Destape. Suffering intimidations or verbal attacks were Enrique Nicolini of FM Chamical de La Rioja; Luis Majul of La Cornisa; Camila Barral and Martín Resano of Crónica, and Paula Bernini and Marcos Barroca of TN. Natalia Fernández was arbitrarily detained by Salta police.
The denunciations of attacks in the digital area on journalists and media multiplied in recent months and show a growing trend as the presidential elections approach. These attacks come from various political sectors and of concern are those ascribed to the state propaganda apparatus.
For many 2018 was – due to its impact in the news area – politically and judicially, "the year of notebooks." This denomination refers to the lawsuit arising from the journalistic investigation that brought to light, at an unprecedented level, the greatest plot of corruption to be recorded in the country. Never before had a lawsuit generated such a high level, in number and hierarchy, of jailed officials and businessmen. Due to its political and economic implications the lawsuit suffered attempts at obstruction, diversion and discrediting through multiple operations. Journalist Daniel Santoro was involved in a maneuver that seeks to discredit his work. A presumed operator sued him in an attempt at extortion together with the prosecutor of the "notebooks lawsuit." Santoro, along with journalists of other media such as Rodrigo Alegre, Rolando Graña and Eduardo Feinmann were the object of an intense discrediting campaign in which the relationship with the sources is unknown. The IAPA and other organizations criticized the attempt to criminalize the interviews and professional secrecy.
In December Congress amended the Value Added Tax law, introducing exemptions and changes in the fractions referring to cover price of graphic media and advertising of the media in general, which gave rise to relief in the news companies. This relief, however, does not soften the major crisis that the industry is suffering from since the 2001 political-economic debacle. Private advertising collapsed with the foreign exchange crisis of April 2018 and continues at historically low levels at the hands of a recession that is about to last 12 months. The state portion, in real terms, represents the fourth part of the amount allotted in 2017. The print press has risen in dollars to a global level, increasing the effect that the currency was devalued by 50% in the last year.