Report to the 76 IAPA General Assembly
October 21-23, 2020

During this period, the work of journalists was affected by abusive local regulations and the excessive implementation of health protocols in various parts of the country. Public debate has deteriorated in recent months, leading to attacks on the press. The climate of intolerance was even reflected in the attacks on journalists during concentrations of citizens who demanded, among other things, the validity of a postulate as fundamental to democracy and individual rights as the independence of the Judicial Power. These unfortunate events occurred in Buenos Aires on July 9 and September 18 and those affected belonged to the C5N television channel.

In the wake of the pandemic and the economic crisis, the media's sustainability has been affected by declining advertising revenues.

Also, in this period, we observed the State's intention to meddle in the area of journalistic content. Unexpectedly, and without public debate as had occurred in previous administrations every time governments promoted codes of ethics for media and journalists, on October 9, the Public Defender's Office - an organ belonging to the national government - announced the creation of the "Observatory for Disinformation and Symbolic Violence in Digital Media and Platforms (Nodio). In a conference offered by the head of the Public Defender's Office, Nodio will have as objective the "protection of citizens from false, malicious and fallacious news" generate materials to "reflect on responsible practices in the search for high quality journalism" and debate "on the ethical aspects of the exercise of freedom of expression on the Internet."

The Association of Argentine Journalistic Entities (ADEPA) and the media in general, immediately rejected the initiative as a "subtle method to discipline or as a reprisal for motivations that are alien to the principles they claim to promote" and far from civil society initiatives to promote critical analysis of the content circulating in the digital ecosystem.

Federal judge Alejo Ramos Padilla extended the prosecution of Clarín journalist Daniel Santoro, timely rejected by the IAPA, now accusing him of being part of an illicit association dedicated to espionage. This unprecedented measure, taken without prior investigation and without relying on new elements in the case, criminalizes journalistic activity and ignores the journalist's relationship with his sources. Organizations such as ADEPA, FOPEA and the National Academy of Journalism expressed their concern about this fact.

The journalist Luis Majul denounced attacks from political and union sectors, in the midst of a smear campaign that linked him to an espionage case.

The pro-government senator, Oscar Parrilli, in a debate on judicial reform, included a clause which would force judges to denounce pressure from "media powers." The initiative was linked to the so-called theory of Lawfare - held by the senator - regarding collusion between politicians, judges and journalists or media with the purpose of influencing and harassing individuals in public life. Later, the senator withdrew the clause.

In a video published in June by the Vice President of the Nation, Cristina Kirchner, images of recognized journalists were superimposed with a voice-over denouncing the "coverup of the mainstream media" and their "complicity" with the previous government. Another example is the statement of the former Supreme Court judge and current judge of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Eugenio Raúl Zaffaroni, who referred to the media as "a single party, and the equivalent of Hitler's party."

President Alberto Fernández did not contribute to improve the climate of public debate. In September, he stated that the opposition and the media "abuse democracy" and maintained that his administration suffers from a "media blitz."

One of the most serious episodes was the brutal beating - by two aggressors – of radio host Luis Mancini, in Villa Río Bermejito, Chaco province, recorded in a video in September. One of the assailants is a local official. Journalists from channel C5N were also physically attacked during a demonstration on July 9 at the Obelisk in Buenos Aires.

Abuses against journalists have taken place during the implementation of health protocols and in attempts to monitor false information about the coronavirus. In June, the home of journalist Gustavo Romero, in Chaco province, was raided by members of the National Gendarmerie who tried to verify whether he was the author of articles on cases of Covid-19. A month later, agents from Santiago del Estero Police detained Gabriel Varela - a journalist from Córdoba - without cause, and then escorted him to the border of the province, claiming that they were following protocol related to the pandemic.

In August, a law was passed in the province of Tucumán punishing those who spread "news on social networks that is totally or partially false" with fines or arrests of up to 10 days. In Pichanal - Salta province - journalist Sebastián Domínguez was fined for spreading "false information."

In August, the Executive Power issued a decree of necessity and urgency which declared cable television, among other things, as a public service - which is a state intrusion upon content.

In August, there was a second instance ruling in favor of the right to be forgotten. In the "Denegri case," the Civil Court determined that Google must remove content related to the plaintiff, pointing out that such content was not of public interest, but could generate damage to the plaintiff. The plaintiff was in the entertainment industry two decades ago and faced legal problems at that time.

The San Luis Province Criminal Justice and Correction Office sentenced journalist Diego Masci to pay a fine for the publication of a private video on a website - the video had previously been posted on WhatsApp - featuring the then provincial Minister of Education. The Justice Department demanded Google to remove the video, in which the female official was shown drunk.