As part of another chapter of the bitter conflict over a controversial Media Law the government of President Cristina Fernandez called on Friday for the annulment of a ruling from the Civil and Commercial Court of Appeals, which on Thursday extended an injunction placed by the Clarín Group on Article 161 of the Media Law.
The article of the 2009 bill refers to the divestment and sale of television and radio licenses after Friday 7D, in order to comply with the new Media Law limits for media groups such as Clarin. The powerful Argentine media group has over 240 television and broadcasting licences.
On Friday morning the Argentine Cabinet Chief Office and the Audiovisual communications watchdog Afsca each presented an appeal against the injunction before the Supreme Court asking that the recently approved ‘per saltum’ instrument be applied to the case given that they are ‘federal competence issues” involving ‘notorious and serious institutional questions which demand a definitive and swift solution’.
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 recourse was recently pushed through Congress by the Cristina Fernandez administration precisely anticipating the current situation.
The appeals Court on Thursday 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.
On Thursday Justice Minister Julio Alak assured that the extension of the injunction, which was supposed to expire today (Friday), confirmed what we have been saying.
The ruling is absolutely arbitrary. It has severe contradictions aimed at the extension of the absurd injunction, the minister assured during an interview on 678 TV program.
The minister said 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.
Earlier in the week Alak 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.
As tension increased along the week the Judiciary branch made public on Thursday an exceptionally 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”.
Cabinet Chief Abal Medina came on stage Friday claiming that the Appeals Court favoured the Clarin media group by extending the injunction.
”With this decision we confirmed that the court is an arm of the illegal group (Clarin), he fired adding that “once more they want to prevent Argentines from building a plural country, but as we are getting used to these reactions which seek to keep privileges for a few, we will keep on working for the laws to be upheld.
Abal Medina went on to say “the people, their representatives, labour unions, social organizations and media groups have shown support and have observed the media law. Only Magnetto (Clarin media group CEO) and some members of the judiciary associated with Clarín and some conservative sectors of the society are opposing it.
Medina added that on December 9, people will celebrate with joy 29 years of democracy and progress on human rights and social inclusion policies.
From Washington the US State Department Spokesman Mark Toner also referred to the media law and the dispute between the executive and the judiciary powers.
We’re obviously watching the process closely. I don’t really have any specific comment on the legal proceedings themselves.
He added as we say generally whenever there’s a legal process, we want to see it adhered to international standards. You know where we are about – where we are on media freedom. We want to see freedom of expression, including for members of the press. We believe it’s a fundamental freedom that’s vital to the health and proper functioning of a democracy”.