FOPEA warns against retaliatory firings of Argentine journalists

The firings of three journalists in Argentina under different circumstances are a demonstration of the “lack of labor guarantees" that prevent reporters from exercising their profession in “liberty and without suffering reprisals,” said the Argentine Journalism Forum (FOPEA), in a press release on Monday, March 25.

The most recent firing occurred on Friday, March 22 in the northeastern province of Chaco.  Journalist Roberto Espinoza was fired after having interviewed journalist Luis Gasulla, author of “The Business of Human Rights,” on his radio program.  The interview had national repercussions, given that Gasulla has been threatened by local leaders due to his book.  Espinoza, who was fired once the program was over, wrote on his Facebook account that “they prefer those who make the threats to the threatened,” said FOPEA.

On March 20, Luis Leiva, a journalist for a radio station in the southern province of Río Negro, was fired apparently due to his comments on the irregular use of public funds.  The owner of the station assured FOPEA that the decision was not censorship, but rather was due to the fact that Leiva “did not obey an order from his boss,” since he had already asked Leiva to stop commenting on the subject.

In the central province of San Juan, the journalist Ernesto Lloveras had his radio show cancelled after only three broadcasts.  That came after a call by a provincial official to the owner of the station, Adrián Villa, demanding the cancellation of the program.  The official said if the show was not cancelled, Villa’s other businesses that work with the government could be affected.

FOPEA says these firings are not only worrying for being serious attacks on freedom of expression, but also because they establish a “dangerous precedent in respect to reprisals against journalists by media owners.”  FOPEA said the firings highlight the importance of approving a national law proposed in June 2011 that would provide a clause to protect journalists in disputes with their employers over editorial content.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.