The Argentine Supreme Court rejected on Thursday the Government’s ‘per saltum’ request to debate the constitutionality of two articles in the controversial Media Law which has the administration of President Cristina Fernandez clashing with the powerful Clarin group.
The court also rejected a complaint filed by the Argentine government against the Civil and Commercial Court that extended an injunction favouring Grupo Clarín, which means the injunction stands and thus the administration of Cristina Fernandez cannot go ahead with the seizure and auction of licences which exceed the number allowed by the questioned Media Law.
The seven Justices met on Thursday morning to address the two requests from the administration of President Cristina Fernandez, the first referred to the ‘per saltum’ which asked the Court to determine ‘immediately’ the constitutionality of the questioned bill, and the second to throw out the injunction from the Civil and Commercial Court that favoured the Clarin group.
The majority opinion of the Justices, chaired by the court’s president Ricardo Lorenzetti was to reject both requests. The normal weekly meeting is held on Tuesdays but because of Christmas was postponed for Thursday.
This means that the heart of the controversy remains, which is the validity of the two articles in the Media Law which Clarin claims are unconstitutional: article 45 which limits the multiplicity of licences held by a single group, and article 161 which forces the return of licences even when they have not expired.
Under the divestment chapter in the law Clarin would have resign its ‘surplus’ broadcasting and television licences, but this would also have an impact on cable television and internet.
The government of President Cristina Fernandez presented the ‘per saltum’ recourse following the ruling from the federal judge Horacio Alfonso who nevertheless had established that both questioned articles are constitutional.
On Wednesday Attorney General Alejandra Gils Carbó had called on the Supreme Court to “extinguish” the injunction brought by the Clarín Group against the implementation of the two articles in the Media Law.
In her ruling, Gils Carbó described the legal interpretation which stated that groups would have a year to divest their assets from when the injunction expired as “erroneous.”
“The injunction inexorably expired on December 7,” said the prosecutor general in the text, which has no legal impact and was released to the press yesterday.
Gils Carbó added that the Chamber’s ruling in favour of the Clarín Group “was a deviation from the Court’s decision, denaturalizing it and making it nonsensical.”
At one time allies, Clarin and the Kirchner couple split when the powerful media group made an extensive coverage of the farmers’ conflict in 2008, the first major defeat of the government. Since then the Kirchner couple has been trying to cut the influence of the Clarin group which it identifies as the only and real opposition. Following on the death of Nestor Kirchner, dismembering the Clarin group has become an obsession for the widow Cristina Fernandez.
Although it must also be said that the Clarin group did effectively have a dominant position in the Argentine media market, and as such was always very polite in its relations with the different governments.