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Journalism in Argentina loses in the fight between the government and the media: CPJ report

Journalism is the biggest loser in the confrontation between the government of Argentina and some of the country’s biggest media companies, according to a recent report from the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The report, published on Sept. 27 and put together by journalist Sara Rafsky, of the organization’s Americas program, discusses some of the possible interests that each of the parties involved may be defending and that put into question the objectivity of political and economic information that citizens receive.

One of the most notable confrontations is between President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Grupo Clarín, the country’s largest media conglomerate and owner of the most widely read newspaper in the country, Clarín.

The government held a good relationship with the company until 2008 when Fernández’s administration raised taxes on farmworkers. Grupo Clarín sided with the farmworkers, along with another one of Argentina’s media conglomerates, Grupo Nación.

The government accused them of protecting their own interests since these companies are the main organizers of Expoagro, the country’s largest agricultural expo.

The report said these media companies often accuse the government of corruption or presenting false economic figures.

The government, on the other hand, regularly uses financial means -- like the distribution of official publicity -- to pressure media outlets.

In Argentina, awarding official publicity is not regulated and there aren’t criteria for its distribution. According to the report, the arbitrary and discriminatory distribution of government publicity should be prohibited so it can’t be used to reward or punish media outlets. According to the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the Inter American Human Rights Commission, the purpose of government publicity is to keep society informed about public services and policies.

According to the study “Quid pro quo: Government publicity in Argentina and its multiple facets,” conducted by the non-profit organization Poder Ciudadano and quoted in the CPJ report, the government didn’t award practically any publicity to Grupo Clarín between May and Oct. 2011.

The report pointed out that the situation is more difficult for small media outlets in the country’s municipalities because often their only sustenance is official publicity.

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.

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