Report to the IAPA 77th General Assembly Virtual

October 19 – 22, 2021

The current pre-electoral process is taking place in a context marked by polarization in the public debate, and by an economic and social crisis derived from historical inconsistencies aggravated by the pandemic.

In terms of freedom of expression, one of the most significant episodes occurred at the beginning of October, when Aníbal Fernández - Minister of Security - published an intimidating message on Twitter addressed to the cartoonist Nik, for his criticism of the proselytizing policies of the governing party. The minister mentioned the cartoonist's daughters' school - which was considered a veiled threat by someone who is supposed to preserve the peace and tranquility of the citizens.

In this period, several judicial actions affected freedom of the press. Despite the revocation of the prosecution via a Chamber ruling of journalist Daniel Santoro - the most emblematic example of judicial harassment in recent years - a Buenos Aires federal judge again indicted the journalist in June, but the Federal Chamber later ordered a review of the ruling and it was overturned. Notwithstanding, a new substitute judge in Dolores - the town in the Buenos Aires province where Santoro had originally been charged - re-prosecuted the journalist without any new element or any proof of his complicity with the source he used. The judicial decision, which seeks to reverse what was already decided by the Chamber, is at odds with the Constitution and with the Inter-American system regarding the protection of investigative journalism.

A positive precedent in terms of professional secrecy was the decision made also in June by the First Court of the Federal Criminal and Correctional Chamber of the city of Buenos Aires, when it rejected the appeals of two businessmen requesting a court ruling to determine the origin of the sources that journalist Diego Cabot had consulted for the journalistic investigation that led to the so-called "notebooks' case."

Another case of concern about the secrecy of sources was the inclusion of the telephone of journalist Rodis Recalt in a list of phones investigated by the Federal Justice regarding a case of hacking of the Police. The Prosecutor's Office determined that there was no wiretapping, but the fact alone inhibits journalistic work.

At the end of August, in the province of Formosa, two journalists were accused by local authorities of public intimidation and incitement to violence. The complaint challenged simple opinions expressed on a radio program and used criminal offenses contrary to the law.

The legal situation of journalist Diego Masci, in San Luis - convicted in 2020 for broadcasting a video of a public official - worsened with the rejection of an appeal filed by the journalist. The case demonstrates how criminal law is used to punish broadcasting related to public interest.

The presentation of a bill to reform the law regulating the Public Prosecutor's Office generated warnings from different associations. The possibility that the ability to appoint and remove prosecutors may be decided by simple majorities - prone to be controlled by circumstantial political majorities - poses the danger of losing the current levels of autonomy and a greater degree of criminal prosecution for journalists.

In October, reporters and cameramen from different media were attacked with stones by relatives of two convicted police officers during the coverage of a trial in the province of Tucumán.

The statements made by Mario Ishii, the mayor of José C. Paz, at an event in September - in which the president of the nation was present - were regrettable. "Someday the people will rise up against the media," said Ishii. Also, congressman Máximo Kirchner blamed the media for an attack with a firearm against a provincial legislator. "This hatred of the media which stigmatizes certain political sectors is the breeding ground for this sort of attitudes," said Kirchner, in reference to the attack on the legislator.

In May, the then cabinet chief of the Buenos Aires province Carlos Bianco said - referring to the Covid-19 pandemic - that "the opposition and the media influenced the number of deaths."

On the other hand, Vice President Cristina Kirchner stated on October 18 in a public act, that "Argentine men and women deserve better media that do not embitter them so much."

The distribution of national official advertising - according to figures published in September regarding the advertising distributed during the Alberto Fernandez' administration - shows imbalances, asymmetries and significant discretionary margins. The volume of official advertising decreased compared to five years ago - which is paradoxical due to the crisis in the industry, the Covid-19 pandemic and the concentration of digital advertising in the large global technological platforms. To this must be added the abrupt drop in revenues from the sale of print copies and the decline in private advertising.