The Argentine government filed on Tuesday a formal complaint against the heads of the country's two biggest newspapers of complicity with a former military regime in crimes against humanity.
The suit was the latest round in an escalating conflict between President Cristina Kirchner and the privately owned media groups, Clarin and La Nacion, over control of the country's only newsprint producer, Papel Prensa.
Kirchner released a 26,000-page report last month accusing Clarin and La Nacion of gaining control of Papel Prensa in 1976 with the backing of Argentina's military government, which ruled the country from 1976 to 1983.
The Secretariat for Human Rights on Tuesday filed suit over the linkage between the illegitimate sale of Papel Prensa and crimes against humanity committed during the dictatorship, it said in a statement.
Clarin and La Nacion issued a joint statement slamming the government, charging it is targeting media who do not back its policies.
This new step confirms the institutional alarms both dailies have been sounding in terms of the government's intention to steamroll media which do not agree with official policy the papers said in their joint statement.
The Kirchner government's attempt ”to link that purchase (of Papel Prensa) with crimes against humanity is a moral and legal aberration, utterly lacking any factual basis, they added.
The government argues that access to newsprint is in the general public interest, and that the deal in question was unfair.
The goal is to preserve equality of opportunity for small newspapers, which today pay 650 dollars a ton for newsprint while Papel Prensa sells it to Clarin and La Nacion for 500 dollars a ton” Juan Carlos Gullo, the vice chair of the lower house's committee for freedom of expression, said last month.
The newspapers, however, contend Kirchner's aim is to control the press by controlling the supply of newsprint. Clarin owns 49% of Papel Prensa, La Nacion 22% and the state 28%.
The lawsuit asked the courts to bring charges against Ernestina Herrera de Noble and Hector Magnetto, respectively the owner and managing director of Clarin, and Bartolome Mitre, the editor of La Nacion.
They also asked for charges to be filed against Sergio Jose, Marcos and Hugo Fernando Peralta Ramos, former owners of La Razon, which is now owned by Clarin. La Razon was part of the 1976 deal that gave the newspapers a controlling interest in Papel Prensa.
The same suit calls for charges against former dictators Jorge Videla and Emilio Massera, members of the military junta at the time of the sale of Papel Prensa, and of former economy minister Jose Martinez de Hoz.