Argentina’s two main newspapers, Clarin and La Nacion claim the government of President Cristina Kirchner has a plan to eliminate their stakes at the country’s largest newsprint mill.
According to government sources Mrs. Kirchner plans to reveal next Tuesday documents exposing links between the two dailies and the 1976 military regime to take over the Papel Prensa corporation.
According to La Nacion the administration of Mrs. Kirchner plans to declare the annulment of the purchase operation and the newspapers’ stakes in the newsprint mill, which anticipates a long legal battle.
“The government plans to take over the assets and control the company, thus managing the production of newsprint and forcing independent journalism to become docile and succumb to the wishes of power”, said Clarin in an editorial piece.
Started in 1972, Papel Prensa supplies newsprint to 170 newspapers in Argentina and is mostly in the hands of Clarin, (the main media group in the country and confronted with the government) which holds a 49% stake, followed by the Argentine state with 28%, La Nacion 22,5% and the rest belonging to third parties.
“Papel Prensa: the truth” has been announced for next Tuesday in Government House, an event to which have been invited members of Congress, governors, ambassadors and business people.
According to La Nacion the report includes claims that Argentina’s main newspapers were involved in alleged illegalities, human rights abuses and coercion to get hold of Papel Prensa shares.
The report supposedly has the testimony of Lidia Papaleo, widow of banker David Gravier, at the time an important shareholder of Papel Prensa and closely linked to the guerrilla movement Montoneros. In her statement the widow alleges that in 1976 she was forced to sell the shares under torture and death threats from the military dictatorship of the time and Hector Magnetto, who happens to be the Director of Clarin.
“I have expectations of a historic compensation after 34 years. I feel it’s a great moment for Argentina and I am grateful that a woman president will settle this debt with the whole of the Argentine society”, said Gravier’s widow, in an interview with another daily, Perfil.
According to La Nacion “it was always plain clear” that the Gravier family “were free at the moment of the sale operation” on November second 1976, and “had not been victims of any tortures or death threats by the military regime”.
“The matter of the fact is that the shares were purchased from the Gravier Group in November 1976 by newspapers Clarin, La Nacion and La Razon when the group was facing serious financial and partnership problems, following the collapse of two overseas banks, and when the group was unable to continue with the construction of the plant”, argues Clarin in its editorial.
Clarin adds that at the time the members of the Gravier family were free and under no threat from the military regime, and at the moment of the transfer of assets, nobody was aware of the links of the Gravier Group with the armed guerrillas Montoneros, which only came to light in 1997 “and triggered a most abominable kidnap operation of several members of the family by the military”.
“Members of the Gravier family were illegitimately held for over five months following the sale of Papel Prensa shares when the financial links between David Gravier and the Montoneros group surfaced. Furthermore Mr. Gravier was accused of having received significant funds from kidnappings and robberies committed by the Montoneros, to invest and manage”, added Clarin.
The Papel Prensa report apparently also contains claims of administrative irregularities and disloyal competition practices on the part of the company controlled by Clarin and La Nacion.
Taking over Papel Prensa, “even when masked behind a human rights cause, has the only purpose of unconditional subordination of the written word, as part of a social domination process improper of democratic systems” concludes Clarin.