Report - Mid-Year Meeting April 17 - 19, 2024

Rosario is a city steeped in the terror generated by criminal organizations dedicated to drug trafficking. This phenomenon is not new, but it has increased in recent months following a change in government management that has faced the scourge decisively. The consequence was a series of random citizen murders. National and local journalism has received threats following the coverage of these acts of violence.

Previously, there were reports of shootings on television channels and signs in public places announcing that journalists would be killed. In March, a TN host, Nelson Castro, received a message on his producer's cell phone warning him that he could end up like José Luis Cabezas, the only Argentine journalist murdered – though not by drug trafficking – in 40 years of democracy, a symbol of an explicit limit that was never crossed again since 1997. Hours before the threat to Castro, reporter Alejandro Puertas, from A24, received a similar threat on his cell phone while broadcasting live from Rosario.

Germán de los Santos, one of the journalists who has most investigated the drug groups in Rosario and who has received the highest number of threats, states that journalists are in a state of defenselessness in that city. Complicity and inefficiencies in the Justice system, politics, and police forces have led to impunity in the face of threats against the press. There are no specialized prosecutor's offices or increased penalties for crimes linked to drug-related criminal activity. Nor are there effective protection protocols.

This period was marked by incidents recorded on January 31, during the journalistic coverage of the public demonstration near the Nation's Congress while a legislative project was being debated. More than 30 journalists were hit by rubber bullets, physically assaulted, and insulted by demonstrators amid scuffles between them and police forces. The National Ministry of Security contacted press organizations to design a protocol that will reduce the physical risks for those reporting during street demonstrations in the future.

In November, the governor of the province of La Rioja stated that he would like to block national media in the district he governs because they "poison" the population. He had already expressed this idea in a constitutional reform process that included the possibility of regulating media activity "linking journalistic work with governance."

There has been a new presidential administration since December 10. The X social network account of the Nation's President, Javier Milei, has been responsible for repeated disqualifications and accusations against journalists. Organizations such as Adepa, Fopea, and the National Academy of Journalism have criticized Milei's attitude, pointing out that the asymmetry between the official and journalists affects press freedom and is not befitting his office. Instead of responding with data, arguments, or opinions to the journalistic expressions he judges to be wrong or false, he does so with insults. These attacks are framed by a discourse in which, with unfair generalizations, he casts a shadow of corruption suspicion over the press. This discourse and the need to reduce the state deficit were the arguments for suspending funds allocated to an official communication.

While it is true that in the past, these funds were assigned arbitrarily and constituted a tool for Kirchnerist administrations to seek to co-opt media, official advertising – which has media as its most natural and effective channel – is also a democratic requirement.