Argentine Executive and Judiciary clash over Media Bill and intimidation of Judges
President Cristina Fernandez and the Argentine Judiciary branch are on a collision course after a federal court, despite all kinds of pressure and threats, decided on Thursday to extend an injunction referred to a controversial media bill which seems targeted to dismember the powerful Clarin Media Group, which has become to the eyes of the regime enemy number one.
Earlier in the day the Judiciary branch made public an exceptio1nally harsh release asking the Argentine government “to exercise its faculties within the boundaries of the procedural rules and avoid using direct or indirect mechanisms to pressure judges thus affecting their independence”.
The communiqué was released in support of the judges designated to rule the Media Law after they reported that their independence was being attacked by the Executive branch.
The communiqué, signed by the National Committee for the Judicial Independence protection, which belongs to the Argentine Supreme Court, the Courts Federal Board, the Judges Association, and the Magistrate’s Argentine Federation, came after Justice Minister Julio Alak increased the battle between the national government and the media group Clarín ahead of Friday’s injunction deadline, or 7D.
The minister had stated that if the Civil and Commercial Court extended the injunction filed by the Clarín Group, preventing the implementation of divestment Article 161, “beyond December 7”, “this would imply an uprising against a national law and generate a conflict of powers”.
The minister made these statements when announcing a further challenge to the decision made by the Civil and Commercial Court on Tuesday, in which the court rejected a challenge against one of its judges, Francisco de las Carreras.
The Federal court target of the Cristina Fernandez wrath decided on Thursday to extend the injunction exempting Grupo Clarín from having to disinvest and sell several television and radio licenses after Friday in order to comply with the new Media Law.
The Court decided to extend the measure until the lawsuit filed by Grupo Clarín in protest of the alleged unconstitutionality of article 161 in the Media Law. The decision was signed by Judges Francisco de las Carreras and Maria Susana Najurieta.
Justice Minister Julio Alak assured that the ruling of the Civil and Commercial Court over the Media Law confirmed what we have been claiming, and stated that the government will call for the annulment of the ruling via the per saltum resource.
”Tomorrow (Friday) we'll present the annulment request before the Court via the per saltum, because this ruling is absolutely arbitrary, with severe contradictions aimed to the extension of the absurd injunction, the minister assured during an interview with a local television program.
The minister assured that there are only a few days left for the background sentence, that could be in a week, or maybe two or three, but the application of the law is inexorable.
Alak admitted that an injunction could be applied with a decree, but not over a law of the National Congress, requested by an economic group and that has been approved three years ago.”
The 'per saltum' law regulates an extraordinary appeal to let the Supreme Court decide on “serious institutional cases” which require a “swift, definite solution” without going through lower courts first
The head of the audiovisual communications watchdog Afsca, Martín Sabbatella, who will be controlling the divestment under Article 161, assured that the recent ruling by a Federal Court extending the injunction over article 161 of the Media Law that benefits Grupo Clarín is “shameful” and warned that the Government will ask the Supreme Court to intervene “so they can review this decision that greatly damages democracy.”
Sabbatella also said that the ruling “proves that we were right to say that the judges who fly to Miami on Clarin’s expense end up becoming a part of their legal team.”
At the same time, he regretted that the Argentine courts “are not prepared to fight against corporations because a large part of it is colonized by those corporations.”
Until late 2007 when former president Nestor Kirchner signed a generous restructuring of the Clarin media group debts and was awarded further licences, the group was considered a faithful ally of the government. However following the 2008 farmers’ conflict which almost knocked out the administration of Cristina Fernandez when she was forced to roll back taxes, the Clarin media group became number one enemy for having given ample television, broadcast and written coverage to the protests and demonstrations.
Cristina Fernandez retaliated with the 2009 Media Bill that seriously limits the number of television and broadcasting licences any group can hold, and the Clarin group effectively is extremely powerful and the implementation of the bill will certainly weaken it.