Press freedom was infringed very little during the year, but a bill about defending a person's reputation, submitted by a senator of the ruling party, could be a future threat to it.

Since the return of democracy in 1985, press freedom has been respected by state institutions and violations in 2001 were isolated incidents. A proposal in parliament to defend personal reputation may cause real problems however.

A journalist attacked

An Argentine writer and journalist, Hernán López Echaguë, was attacked and threatened with death on 11 November 2001 by an Argentine politician, Eduardo "Pacha" Cantón, who the journalist had said was involved in money-laundering. López Echaguë had earlier left Argentina for neighbouring Uruguay after being attacked by a former Buenos Aires provincial governor he had accused of drug smuggling.

A journalist threatened

Julio Ríos, of the CX 30 radio station, who had exposed corruption among managers of football clubs, was approached outside his home on 31 October 2001 by strangers who threatened to kill him.

Pressure and obstruction

The staff of the weekly Búsqueda were the target of a bomb threat on 11 May 2001. Editor in chief Claudio Paolillo said the author could have been "someone a bit crazy making a joke in bad taste" or else "something much more serious." He said insults and threats had been received since publication a month earlier of an article about corruption in the government taxation department. He noted that in 2000, Búsqueda's phones had been tapped by the police.

On 10 October, the senate began considering a bill about defending "personal honour" presented by Sen. Ruben Correa Freitas, of the ruling Colorado Party. The bill's first article says that anyone who feels personally harmed by something published in the media could take the matter to a "court of honour," which would decide within five days whether the person's reputation has been damaged but would not pronounce on the truth of what was published. If the person accused made a public apology before the five days was up, the plaintiff could not then bring a criminal or civil suit. Article 9 of the bill says that anyone criticising the verdict of the court could be jailed for between three months and two years.


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