Key Developments

  • Supreme Court tells government to end inequitable distribution of official advertising.

  • Blockade at printing facilities disrupts circulation of two national dailies.

The Supreme Court of Justice ruled in March that the government should apply reasonable balance in the distribution of state advertising. Ruling in a case brought in 2006 by Editorial Perfil, the country's largest magazine publisher, the court sought to rein in the government's long-standing practice of rewarding supportive news media with state advertising while punishing critical media by withholdings ads. Nonetheless, Perfil and other critics alleged that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who won re-election in October, continued the system of unequal distribution. Relations between Grupo Clarín, the nation's largest media conglomerate, and the Kirchner government worsened in March after demonstrators, including members of the Teamsters, blocked trucking exits at Clarín's printing facilities, preventing the paper from distributing its Sunday edition. In December, Kirchner signed a measure bringing the country's sole newsprint manufacturer, Papel Prensa, under government regulation. Publishers groups said it was another attack on Clarín and La Nación, which own a majority stake in the company. Circulation of the national daily La Nación was also disrupted for several hours. The local press group Foro de Periodismo Argentino documented a series of abuses in the country's interior, including an attack on a radio journalist,a case of arson, and an episode in which a camera crew was fired upon. A federal court sentenced 16 former military members in October to jail terms ranging from 18 years to life in prison for the murder of journalist Rodolfo Walsh and 85 others during the 1976-83 Argentine dictatorship.

[Refworld note: The sections that follow represent a best effort to transcribe onto a single page information that appears in tabs on the CPJ's own pages, which also include a number of graphics not readily reproducible here. Refworld researchers are therefore strongly recommended to check against the original report: Attacks on the Press in 2011.]

Provinces with abuses: 18

While many press freedom issues are centered in the capital, Buenos Aires, the press group Foro de Periodismo Argentino (Fopea) documented abuses in 18 Argentine provinces in the first half of 2011. Abuses included threats, assaults, attacks against media facilities, confiscation of equipment, and obstruction of coverage.

Provinces with the highest number of abuses:

Years of litigation: 16

In December, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled in favor of two journalists with the newsweekly Noticias in the court's first case weighing privacy rights against reporting on matters of public concern. The case began in 1995 when former President Carlos Saúl Menem filed a lawsuit alleging the journalists had violated his privacy by reporting on his child from an extramarital affair. Argentina's Supreme Court had ruled in Menem's favor in 2001.

Breakdown of a lawsuit:

6 (of 9): Supreme Court justices who were Menem appointees in 2001 when the court found the journalists liable for invading Menem's privacy.

US$144,000: Amount in damages and legal fees the journalists were ordered to pay Menem.

Newspaper edition blocked: 1

The leading national daily Clarín was prevented from distributing its Sunday, March 27, edition by union demonstrators who blocked exits at its printing plant. Circulation of the nation's other major daily, La Nación, whose adjacent facilities were targeted, was delayed by four hours. Union members claimed they were protesting workplace discrimination, but Clarín denied any such labor dispute and pointed to a pattern of government harassment and union interference at the plant.

Breakdown of Clarín blockade:

12: Hours during which Clarín's printing facilities were blocked.

5: Blockades of Clarín's printing plant since November 2010.

1: Civil court ruling in January that "a group of demonstrators cannot obstruct the circulation of print media." The newspapers said police did nothing to break up the protests, as the court ruling had directed.

Justices backing Editorial Perfil: 7

In October, Editorial Perfil filed a court complaint that alleged the government had not complied with the March Supreme Court decision calling for equitable official advertising. The publishing company asked that then-Chief of Staff Aníbal Fernández and Media Secretary Juan Manuel Abal Medina be fined. In a landmark ruling for press freedom, the seven Supreme Court justices decided unanimously that all media should receive official advertising. The decision upheld a 2009 ruling by a federal appeals court that said withholding government advertising from Editorial Perfil publications violated freedom of the press as guaranteed in the Argentine constitution. Editorial Perfil said the government was discriminating against its publications due to their critical reporting.

Other official discrimination against the media:

0: Argentine private media groups allowed to cover Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's acceptance of the Argentine University of la Plata's freedom of expression award. Only the public TV station and Venezuelan media groups were permitted to cover the controversial awards ceremony.

Complaint of noncompliance: 1

In October, Editorial Perfil filed a court complaint that alleged the government had not complied with the March Supreme Court decision calling for equitable official advertising. The publishing company asked that Chief of Staff Aníbal Fernández and Media Secretary Juan Manuel Abal Medina be fined.

Official advertising since the Supreme Court decision, according to Perfil:

8: Official advertisements placed in the daily Perfil from March until October.

1: Out of the eight advertisements that attacked the newspaper itself.

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