IAPA Concerned at Legislative Initiatives in Two Argentine Provinces


Miami (August 3, 2023) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) expressed concern over two legislative actions being promoted by the provincial governments of Salta and La Rioja, in Argentina, to punish, in one case, the dissemination of fake news and, in the other, to promote a constitutional reform that could affect freedom of expression and press freedom.

In Salta, a bill in the House of Representatives punishes with arrest and fines "whoever disseminates false news" in the digital spectrum. If approved, Article 50 of the initiative authorizes punishments for those who "create false news, spread panic, discredit people or provincial authorities."

In La Rioja, at the beginning of the discussion on constitutional reform of that province, Governor Ricardo Quintela said that the amendment would include the regulation of the independent press. He believes the reforming Convention -with a sizeable pro-government majority- should discuss "freedom of expression and governance." The Governor is critical of the media and months ago had already proposed "blocking" national media because "they give rotten information" which cannot be "verified."

IAPA President Michael Greenspon expressed his concern. "I am concerned that in a country with so much history and jurisprudence on freedom of expression, in which the national Constitution safeguards press freedom, ghosts of the past return to try to tie up the media and muzzle citizens' freedom of expression." Greenspon, global director of Licensing and Print Innovation for The New York Times, recalled the Chapultepec and Salta declarations, the latter sanctioned precisely in the Argentine province that is now promoting the controversial law. Those documents enshrine the principles that should govern freedom of the press and call on governments to refrain from creating rules or regulations that negatively impact the natural right to freedom of expression.

The Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information president, Carlos Jornet, added that the new legislative proposal in Salta is ambiguous and dangerous. "It seems that officials disguise a laudable action to limit lies, in creating a protective shield to tackle criticism, opinions and journalistic investigations that have them as addressees." Jornet, the editor of La Voz del Interior, Argentina, stressed that "it is equally authoritarian for a government to try to qualify what is good or bad, true or false, in matters of communication and information."

Greenspon and Jornet said that to combat disinformation, governments should promote public policies for news and digital literacy, measures to strengthen professional journalism and refrain from imposing censorship mechanisms or criminal sanctions. They also recalled that the IAPA "rejects laws or regulations that affect the independence and editorial criteria of the media and journalists."

IAPA is a non-profit organization dedicated to defending and promoting freedom of the press and expression in the Americas. It comprises more than 1,300 publications from the western hemisphere; and is based in Miami, Florida, United States.