The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today described as “malicious” attempts by the government of Argentina to control press freedom through adoption of a law on the manufacture, sale and commercialization of newsprint, and said it trusted that the judiciary would annul a “law that is clearly unconstitutional because of its subjugation of principles concerning freedom of expression.”
The chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Gustavo Mohme, said that the organization “regretted the move by the government against freedom of the press on the part of the Argentine Congress,” in reacting to passage yesterday of the law, which declares the production, sale and distribution of newsprint to be of public interest.
Mohme added, “Now all we can do is hope that the affected parties resort to the courts, and we are sure that an eventual ruling will not ignore the fact that this law contravenes Article 32 of the Argentine Constitution and principles in inter-American case law that prohibit the enactment of laws that restrict the free distribution of ideas.”
The law, passed by the federal Senate on a 41 to 26 vote with one abstention, regulates through the Economy Ministry the prices, commercialization and production of this supply for newspapers, whose principal manufacture in the country is by the company Papel Prensa, of which the newspapers Clarín and La Nación are members along with the state as minority shareholder.
The IAPA had already on numerous occasions complained of the legal and administrative actions that the government was taking against Papel Prensa, which it called “malicious attempts” to control press freedom.
The IAPA also expressed surprise this week at other developments affecting Argentine newspapers, which it suspects were not isolated incidents.
In this regard, it voiced concern at the December 20 court-ordered raid on and seizure of the Buenos Aires headquarters of cable television channel Cablevisión, a company belonging to the Clarín Group, saying it was an act of excessive public force in a conflict which, if it existed, should be resolved by more appropriate means.
The raid, in which 50 armed members of the military police took part, was on a court order resulting from a formal complaint filed by the media group Vila-Manzano of the Argentine province of Mendoza, against the merger of the Clarín Group channels Cablevisión and Multicanal, alleging abuse of a dominant position to avoid use of unfair competition. The merger of the channels was authorized in 2007 but overturned in 2010. The legal action also involves the takeover of the company for one year and the separation of the channels within 60 days.
The IAPA also noted with concern another court order, one issued yesterday (December 22), concerning the assets of the Buenos Aires newspaper La Nación and another 22 Argentine papers. At the request of the Federal Public Revenue Administration (AFIP) a federal taxation judge issued a general injunction concerning the assets of La Nación over a long-standing tax debt controversy. The Supreme Court had in 2009 ruled in favor of the newspaper companies and suspended payment of the debt, an action that was not taken into account by the judge who this week ordered the freezing of assets.
The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 print publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida. For more information please go to http://www.sipiapa.org