UN, IAPA at loggerheads over Argentina's new media law

The Argentine Audiovisual Communication Services Law, also known as the Media Law, set to take effect Dec. 7, has caught the attention of press freedom organizations across the world.

On one side, the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) approved a "Press Freedom Mission" to Argentina to interview government members and representatives of media groups on Tuesday, Oct. 16, reported the EFE news agency. The unanimous decision was made at the 68th IAPA General Assembly, which met in São Paulo, Brazil, announced Gustavo Mohme, president of IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information.

The Argentine Association of Journalistic Businesses requested the mission after Argentine newspapers attending the IAPA General Assembly presented a report on the independent press' situation in the South American country, reported the newspaper La Nación. One of the themes the report touched on and prompted the request for the mission was the government's support for the Media Law as a way to attack the media conglomerate Grupo Clarín, according to the newspaper.

Since the law was approved in 2009, Grupo Clarín has claimed the law is retaliation against it for the media giant's critical editorial stance toward the government. According to the government's official page, the laws' objective is to regulate audiovisual communication servies to make them cheaper, more democratic and universalize the use of new information technology.

The government has warned Grupo Clarín several times that it must reduce its number of broadcast licenses by Dec. 7. Groups like the Global Editors Network (GEN) have decried the law as an attack on press freedom and have organized a global protest in response.

The United Nations, however, disagrees with GEN's assessment. The international body's Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Frank La Rue, called Argentina a "model" for freedom of expression on Sept. 15, according to EFE. The rapporteur said the Media Law was the most advanced in the Americas and that "in freedom of expression, the principle of media diversity and pluralism of positions is fundamental," the news agency reported.

The Committee to Protect Journalists argued in a Sept. 27 report that the only loser in the fight between Argentina's biggest news companies and the government is journalism.

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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