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Argentina

Area: 2,780,400 sq.km.
Population: 38,428,000
Language: Spanish
Head of state: President Nestor Kirchner

Argentina - Annual report 2005

Press freedom is still not satisfactory in the provinces, where local authorities have wide powers, discriminate in who they buy advertising space from and restrict access to public information. Journalists there are also hounded by police and courts and are targets of physical attacks. President Kirchner was accused of trying to influence the editorial line of the mainstream media.

San Luis provincial governor Alberto Rodríguez Saá blamed journalists when they asked him why he had pushed through a press law allowing seizure or shutdown of newspapers that printed "subversive, seditious, obscene or immoral" material. When he cancelled the measure three weeks later, on 23 June 2004, he admitted he had made a mistake but accused the media of "not monitoring local legislators and the opposition closely enough." This retreat was an exception however and in the country’s 23 provinces, whose governors have extensive powers and great autonomy, the local media is the target of many abuses of power. Mabel Moralejo, of the Argentine press freedom group Periodistas, says that nearly all provincial governments use the purchase of public advertising space to reward or punish the media according to their editorial line. The Córdoba city government pulled all its ads out of the daily El Mañana after it criticised the authorities. Periodistas says that in the current economic climate, such advertising is an ever more important part of media revenue.
The Neuquén provincial labour and security minister, Luis Manganaro, tried in vain in August to force the daily paper Río Negro to reveal its sources for a story about embezzlement of public money. In the southern province of Tierra del Fuego, a car belonging to two journalists who had accused a provincial minister of illegally living in an apartment belonging to the city of Río Grande, was burned. Physical attacks on journalists were generally fewer than in the two previous years however.
But access to public information is still a problem and officials provide it according to the editorial line of the media requesting it. Laws to ensure access have been proposed in some provinces, such as Mendoza and Santa Fe, and at federal level but they do not guarantee complete access. All require applicants to show they have a "legitimate interest" in asking for it, thus allowing some public bodies to refuse to hand over material.

Tense relations between media and government

Relations between the national media and President Nestor Kirchner’s government were sometimes difficult. In April, the media owners’ association Adepa expressed concern at the "intolerance" of the interior and economy ministers for attacking two media outlets that had criticised them. Jorge Lanata, producer of the TV show "Día D" broadcast until 2003 by the privately-owned station América 2, criticised in May the government’s efforts to get the show off the air, noting that after it was pulled, government advertising with the station tripled, from 300,000 to 1.2 million pesos worth (75,000 euros to 300,000 euros).
The weekly Noticias accused the government in early July 2004 of trying to change the line of the media through advertising, which it said was illogically distributed without regard to audience-share or readership. It said a go-between had offered the magazine a lot of public-sector advertising if it would water down its criticism. Adepa called on the federal government and local authorities in its annual report to drop such "autocratic" practices.
The release on 15 December of José Luis Auge, one of the six killers of photographer José Luis Cabezas, caused an uproar. He had been given a life sentence but this was reduced in November 2003 by the national appeals court. The January 1997 discovery of the journalist’s burned body shocked Argentines, who still remember the abuses of the military dictatorship.
Periodistas was then leading the fight for justice in the case. The closure of the association, announced on 12 November 2004, was very bad news for press freedom.

In 2004...

-  1 journalist was arrested
-  11 media and journalists physically attacked
-  and 3 media and journalists threatened



Introduction Americas - Annual Report 2005
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