Report to the 75th General Assembly of the IAPA

October 4 – 7, 2019

Coral Gables, Florida

Coral Gables, Florida


The work of the press continued developing in this period in an institutional framework of respect for freedom of expression, without reprisals nor systematic harassment from the government. At the same time the economic context continued showing a certain risk for the sustainability of news companies. In the last reports it was held that the media, above all newspapers, were living through a "perfect storm." The crisis change in April last year was combined with the 50% devaluation of the currency, producing a terrible recession. The media since then has experienced a fall off in their advertising income due to an extended cancellation of campaigns and withdrawal of ads. For the print media there was added an immediate doubling of the cost of newsprint at the international level.

Since August 11, due to the impact generated by the results in the primary elections, currency suffered a new and strong devaluation, the country risk went from less than 900 to more than 2,500 points, the government reprogrammed payments of public debt and restricted the purchase of dollars on verifying that the bank deposits and reserves of the Central Bank had a pronounced drop. There reappeared, definitively, the fear of the most serious Argentine crises. The viability of the news companies is at serious risk for economic reasons, but also because there are being renewed the problems of press freedom in the previous governments.

The prosecution of journalist Daniel Santoro, made in August, is the most alarming case of the period. Dolores federal judge Alejo Ramos Padilla decided to move ahead with this action within the framework of what is known as the D'Alessio case, in which there is being investigated the commission of a series of extortion. There do not arise from the ruling elements that link the journalist with these offenses.

Organizations such as the Association of Argentine News Entities, the Forum of Argentine Journalism, the National Journalism Academy and the IAPA manifested their concern at this judicial decision that criminalizes the profession of journalism and ignores the constitutional protection of the secrecy of sources. The judge asked for a record of the journalist's telephone calls, which would violate the mentioned secrecy. Ramos Padilla's warnings about the possible hindrance of the investigation through the continuance of the journalist's work serve as a threat.

The judge's decision to give intervention to the "Provincial Commission of Memory" for this to establish whether the Santoro articles would amount to a psychological action implying granting an inadmissible function to a body outside the judicial sphere. The resolution in general becomes, in this way, a dangerous precedent for press freedom which can generate expansion of self-censorship among journalists. The judicial decision serves the attempt to discredit the so-called "cause of the notebooks" derived from an investigation by La Nación that exposed the biggest plot of corruption in Argentine history.

In June the judge of Garantías 7 in Salta province, María Edith Rodríguez, notified the National Communications Body that the local and national media would have to abstain from publishing images of the musical group Los Nocheros and of its members individually, within the framework of the news coverage of a lawsuit in which there is detained the son of one of the members of the group. She in addition ordered the elimination of "all the informational records of images, videos, data, commentaries, links, stories, sites, connections or search engines" linked to the trial and that would contain images or the name of any of the members of the musical group. This is a gag resolution that clearly shows an attempt at censorship expressly prohibited by the Constitution.

In August the Córdoba province Judicial Branch determined that the local media would have to abstain from publishing a video on a vehicle collision, in another clear act of prior censorship.

The ruling of Judge Alicia Boronei in which there was given way to a lawsuit by an official against the news website Mendoza Post and two of its journalists, for an amount that can unbalance the media's economic equation, amounts to a serious threat to press freedom. The plaintiff felt offended by information published in the media outlet, according to the judge false and with knowledge. This latter does not come from the ruling and the legal decision therefore is distanced from the doctrine of malice.

Among the statements of public figures on the press, those of Eugenio Zaffaroni, judge of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and former member of the Argentine Supreme Court of Justice are worrisome. He proposed the reinstatement of the so-called "Media Law" with regulations that were designed during the Kirchner administration, essentially, to dismember a media group.

The head of Grupo América, Daniel Vila, denounced in a television program that President Mauricio Macri pressured him in order to give up frequencies already assigned to his company Arlink. Prosecutor Guillermo Marijuan formalized the complaint judicially and, after citing and taking a statement from Vila, federal judge María Servini decreed the summary secret.

Among the acts of intimidation suffered by media or journalists there should be mentioned the bomb threats to the studios of channel Telefé in mid-May, an action not clarified by police authorities. Regarding physical aggression, among the most recent cases there should be mentioned the injuries caused by stones thrown by members of the Luz y Fuerza labor union and the rubber bullet shots coming from police of Córdoba province suffered by cameraman Lucas Suárez and news photographer Daniel Cáceres in Córdoba city last month.

In the electoral campaign political polarization gave rise to intolerant conduct suffered by various sectors, among them the press. This was evidenced in episodes that go from verbal aggression, such as those suffered by journalist María Eugenia Duffard in the Buenos Aires Book Fair to extreme suggestions, such as that of introducing a kind of press Conadep (Conadep was the Commission aimed at investigating the disappearance of people during the military dictatorship), an idea launched by a player linked to Kichnerism and not condemned sufficiently by some of its major mentors.

The absence of emphatic rejection of attacks upon journalists or proposals of hostile actions that affect freedom of expression is of double concern given the probability that the new government work be made up of some of the most supporters of Kirchnerism. As is known, during the governments of Néstor and Cristina Kirchner journalists and media suffered an onslaught that made the country integrate those with more intense attacks upon press freedom. The Peronist presidential candidate has held that he rejects those policies and any kind of war against the press.

In the last hours there was a worrying ruling of second instance that orders to reopen a criminal investigation against two journalists, Rodis Recalt, of the magazine Noticias, and Gerardo Young, then of the Intratable program of América TV, for having published information on a member of the Federal Intelligence Agency (AFI). This research not only ignores the essence of journalistic work, which is to access and publish information of public interest, but also puts professional secrecy at risk and promotes self-censorship.