Controversial law to control newsprint production in Argentina moves forward

Deputies from the Argentine political party the Front for Victory approved a controversial bill declaring the production and importation of newsprint to be a "public interest," according to the newspaper La Nación. The Clarín and La Nación newspapers view the bill as an attempt to control the private company Papel Prensa, in which both newspapers are shareholders. The newspapers are considered opposed to President Crintina Fernández de Kirchner's administration.

Most opposition members in the Chamber of Deputies voted against the bill, which was also criticized by the Argentine Association of Journalistic Enterprises (ADEPA in Spanish), reported La Razón.

"We're convinced that the state's intervention here will create bigger problems than those it proposes to solve," ADEPA said in a statement. The organization said that the scarcity of newsprint in the past hampered the free exercise of independent journalism and expressed its support for a government that guarantees printing material for all publications without having to depend on favors from state authorities.

The newspaper Clarín noted that one of the most disturbing parts of the bill is a clause that would allow for the state to unilaterally take a majority share in the business. Furthermore, the Economy Ministry would determine the necessary amounts of newsprint to import; in the past, there were no tariffs or quotas on the product, reported La Nación.

Not all newspaper derided the bill. The newspaper Página 12 celebrated the bill's obligation that Papel Prensa set a universal price for newsprint for all newspapers in the South American country. The Federation of Newspapers and Cooperative Communicators of the Argentine Republic applauded the bill, saying that "cooperative newspapers suffer the effects of monopoly, as exercised by Papel Presna, controlled in large part by the Clarín and La Nación newspapers," reported the Argentine national news agency, Télam.

The bill will now be sent to the Senate for its approval before it can take affect, according to La Razón.