Report to the Midyear Meeting
April, 20-23

Aggressions against journalists and attacks on the media were important restrictions on press freedom during this period - as well as judicial harassment with the intention of criminalizing journalistic work.

On March 23, demonstrators of the Argentine Workers' Union (CTA) entered the building of the newspaper Río Negro, beat a photographer and a receptionist, smashed furniture and painted intimidating phrases against journalists on the walls. The attack followed the newspaper's coverage of a sexual abuse trial involving the leader of a faction of the union. Police officers from a nearby station showed up 40 minutes after the attack began. Some of the assailants were identified. No one was arrested.

During this period there were a series of attacks in the province of Formosa. Excessive restrictions on movement prevented the press from entering the province and limited local journalists' coverage of human rights violations in Covid-19 isolation centers. On March 5, during a public demonstration against the restrictions on movement, the police injured a journalist with rubber bullets and arbitrarily detained another for several hours. In addition to these episodes, there were acts of intimidation by public officials, intimidation by police forces, and disregard of federal court rulings that guarantee the work of journalists.

Judicial harassment was used against journalists Daniel Santoro, Diego Cabot and Irene Benito. Unfounded accusations from sectors close to power or judges aligned with Kirchnerism promote causes to criminalize journalistic work or to neutralize investigations.

A judge ordered journalist Santiago O'Donnell to hand over recordings of testimonies transcribed into a book about the brother of former President Mauricio Macri - thereby breaching professional confidentiality. A federal judge ordered Diego Cabot to hand over a copy of surveillance camera recordings in order to identify his sources after the investigation of the "notebooks case."

On the positive side, a Federal Court overturned the prosecution of journalist Daniel Santoro. The Supreme Court nullified the indictment of journalists Carlos Pagni and Roberto García - on an espionage charge.

The claim of "lawfare" - a theory with the purpose of inhibiting journalism by proposing the existence of collusion between sectors of journalism, politics and justice - appears repeatedly in statements made by President Aníbal Fernández and Vice-President Cristina Kirchner - among other government leaders. Telephone communications and meetings of journalists with sources are used as arguments for the conspiratorial thesis of the government. A project was submitted to the Mercosur Parliament to turn "lawfare" into a crime - to punish journalists who investigated acts of corruption. Based on the claim of collusion between media and justice, a "Media Warfare" seminar took place at the University of Buenos Aires - with the participation of a former vice-president convicted of corruption as example of a "victim of lawfare."

The most recent episode was the presentation of an opinion by the Bicameral Commission for the Supervision of Intelligence Bodies and Activities of the National Congress, in which the media was accused of being part of "a systematic plan of espionage illegal politician as a method of domination and extortion, in the best style of mafia practice ". As an example of the alleged illegal actions of journalists and the media, the legislators mention "illegal monitoring and espionage of citizens, recording of telephone communications, collection of migratory movements, use o f repentant witnesses falsely and under pressure."

In terms of physical aggressions, Néstor Pavón - owner of a radio station in El Quebrachal, Salta - was stabbed twice by Isaac Rojas - son of the mayor of that town. Another incident was the attack by demonstrators against Fernando Martínez (Diario Uno), Marcelo Aguilar (La Nación) and María Inés Aimale (TN), while covering a protest in relation to a femicide case in the province of Mendoza.

Luciano Román received threats from the State Prosecutor of the province of Buenos Aires as a result of his articles published in the newspapers El Día and La Nación. Other cases are those of Joaquín Morales Solá - insulted by the pro-government deputy Rodolfo Tailhade; Analía Alvarez, of the radio station Valle Viejo in Catamarca - insulted by the provincial deputy Juana Fernández; and the missionary journalist Mariana Chenlo - threatened by a municipal employee of Puerto Esperanza.

Regarding the excesses in the application of sanitary protocols, journalists were excluded from the opening legislative session in the province of San Luis.

A project to create a state monitoring center for the media in the province of Santa Cruz, similar in nature and objectives to those of Nodio, was a cause for concern - a project rejected by the IAPA.

Also serious was the prohibition of the media, by a civil court in the city of Buenos Aires, from mentioning the name of a kidnapped minor - named "M" - and her mother. The measure constitutes a case of censorship that exceeds the protection of the privacy of minors protected by Argentine law, in a matter of obvious public interest.

The Argentine press faces growing challenges for its sustainability. Today it lacks the state subsidies it received during the first months of the pandemic in 2020, and faces a very serious decline in revenues in the context of a deep recession and a complex public health horizon. Nonetheless, journalists and media are doing their job with commendable courage and dedication.