Report to the IAPA
March 28, 2020


Since the issuance of the decree of the National Government establishing an obligatory quarantine from March 20 to combat the effects of COVID-19 and under a sense of political unity of all the sectors with few precedents, journalists and news media have carried out their work without obstacles regarding coverages and mobility.

However, with the public health crisis, like other economic sectors, the news industry, which has been undergoing a very difficult period for its sustainability, finds itself threatened in the face of a setting that indicates a strong deterioration in economic activity in general and the reduction of advertising income. The circulation of the leading national and regional newspapers fell between 15 and 20% in the first days, while advertising in the media in general lessened by more than 40% on average.

Despite the press is focused on combating disinformation and is promoting preventive conducts in the population. In this context a part of the "radical" government of Jujuy province urged the citizens to avoid using news media to combat the anxiety generated by coronavirus.

The new government of Alberto Fernández also is concentrating on the negotiation of the public debt. In this context the government delayed the distribution of official advertising, although later the officials declared that the publication of advertisements would start to normalize due to the health crisis.

In the fourth month of the new government there have partially dissipated the fears of attacks on press freedom that existed during the previous Kirchner government.

Some initiatives and expressions vouched for questioners on the manner in which there will be developed the relationship between those in power and journalism. The most resounding was a bill presented by five senators linked to Kirchnerism that postulates as grounds for nullity of the declaration of preventive imprisonments in cases of corruption. The bill established that "the publication of contents on the part of one or more news media, which could have affected the public perception regarding the principle of innocence on the one affected by the resolution."

This bill, which promotes self-censorship and contravenes principles of freedom of expression, has still not prospered in Congress and was not accompanied by the highest followers of Kichnerism nor by President Fernández.

Kichnerism, with various followers legally investigated for corruption, subscribes to the thesis of "lawfare," a concept that sustains the existence of a linkage of complicities between sectors of the justice system and journalism to pursue certain political players. Its militants in January pushed for the creation of a tribunal to judge alleged cases of "lawfare." The candidate for chairman of that tribunal, invested himself with moral authority to determine the guilty, mentioned recognized journalists whose work would be submitted to scrutiny.

In recent months the government pursued a series of reforms in the judicial field that could have an eventual impact on the balance of powers.These are changes in the structure of the penal jurisdiction and in the regime of retirements of magistrates, which could generate a melting of certain areas of the the justice system and the generation of vacancies that could be filled by judges chosen by the government.