Argentina Bid to Limit Media Critics Comes Unstuck

Adam Jones - Elderly Man Views Daily Newspapers - La Cumbre - Argentina (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Aidan White

Plans by Argentina’s combative government to curb the power of its media critics have come up against the law following the decision by the country’s Federal Chamber on Civil and Commercial Matters to postpone implementation of controversial articles in a new media law.

The law was set to be applied today (December 7) but the newspaper Clarín argued that articles in the new law were unconstitutional. Now the legislation, which aims to limit ownership of audiovisual media licenses, will not be implemented until there is a fresh ruling on its constitutionality.

The Clarin Group, which has been a consistent critic of the government, has been targeted by President Christina Kirchner in a widespread publicity campaign. Kirchner herself has been a focus of media attention over the country’s increasingly polarised information landscape.

In Argentina the major news outlets line up on either side of bitter argument for or against her government. The atmosphere created by the President’s robust treatment of journalists and her cat-and-mouse tactics of dealing with media has led to much criticism from press freedom watchers in the region.

Not surprisingly, the latest decision has disappointed the government which claims Clarin is a media monopoly that needs to be cut down to size. Martín Sabbatella, the head of the government agency in charge of implementing the law, is reported as saying the latest ruling was “a shame” and added that they “will seek the intervention of the Court to review this act that hurts democracy.”

Earlier this year a report from the Committee to Protect Journalists claimed the authorities have been taking particular aim at Clarin Group whose offices were raided by tax agents immediately following the publication of an article critical of the government. The company’s offices have also been vandalised and its printing facilities blockaded.

The government has sought to break up media conglomerates and also punished opposition media by withdrawing access to millions of dollars in official advertising.

Photo Credit: Adam Jones – Elderly Man Views Daily Newspapers – La Cumbre – Argentina (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Adam Jones – Elderly Man Views Daily Newspapers – La Cumbre – Argentina (CC BY-SA 2.0)