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Argentina4 March 2005

President Kirchner hits back at IAPA over report on press freedom

Reporters Without Borders voiced surprise today at President Néstor Kirchner’s response yesterday to a report by the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) on 2 March about press freedom in Argentina.

Kirchner said he suspected the IAPA of trying to "defend the interests of the big press groups" and accused it of being allied to Claudio Escribano, the deputy editor La Nación, which he criticised for its stance during the 1976-83 military dictatorship.

"President Kirchner’s reaction is quite astonishing, in view of the real problems raised by the IAPA in support of an investigation carried out in the media and state authorities, nationally and locally," the press freedom organization said, adding, "we will continue to be vigilant, especially as regards the alarming conclusions in the IAPA’s preliminary report."

The IAPA delegation said in its report that the editors and reporters it talked to were almost unanimous in saying journalists are subject to pressure from government officials as regard the information transmitted to the public. It also said the government uses the distribution of state advertising as a way of rewarding some news media and punishing others.

The IAPA report said there was discrimination against some journalists in the issuing of invitations to accompany the president on trips, and it noted a recent protest by journalists accredited to the presidential palace about the presidential spokesperson’s authoritarian behaviour. The government acknowledges that Kirchner’s communication strategy is to "address the people directly, in words and acts."

The IAPA also voiced concern about an access to information bill currently before the chamber of deputies which, it said, would give the authorities too much discretionary power and would establish "legitimate interest" as a criteria for getting information. Under this law in its current form, the news media would risk administrative penalties or even prison if they did not comply, the IAPA said, calling it a threat to free expression and journalists’ work.

Led by Alejandro Miró Quesada Cisneros of Peru, the IAPA delegation was due to wind up its fact-finding trip today with a visit to the province of Neuquén, where the local government tried last August to force journalists with the Río Negro daily newspaper to reveal their sources to a court. The journalists successfully resisted.

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