Argentina | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Argentina

Argentina

Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

45

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

17

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

16

Argentina's relative political stability has brought with it a climate in which the press has been able to operate freely, although not without some sustained official pressure. Freedom of speech and of the press is protected by law, and the government has usually respected this in practice. Libel is still considered a criminal offense and, though suits are rarely brought, remains a threat that encourages journalists to engage in self-censorship. The relationship between the press and President Nestor Kirchner continued to be tense, and access to public information remained severely limited; since 2003, the president has refused even to hold a press conference. In 2004, the Argentine Senate debated legislation allowing unfettered access to public information; but amendments made to this bill in 2005 were so extensive that if implemented, it would have defeated the intention behind the original legislation. The bill eventually died in Congress and was never enacted.

Journalists-particularly those who report on corruption, irregular business dealings, and human rights abuses-also continue to be subjected to threats and physical harassment by police and non-state actors. A correspondent for the regional daily El Liberal was physically abused by demonstrators while covering their protest rally at a polling station in February. In addition to numerous other arbitrary attacks, Leandro Lopez, a reporter with the local El Sol, was heavily beaten by police in the eastern city of Concordia while attempting to take pictures of a car accident that had taken place just outside the central police station. He was accused by the police of verbal assaults and resisting arrest.

There are more than 150 daily newspapers, hundreds of radio stations, and dozens of television channels in Argentina. The country's print media are entirely privately owned, while the numerous privately owned radio and television stations are able to broadcast without restrictions. All private media enterprises suffered during the four-year-long recession that culminated in economic collapse in late 2001, but recovery is under way. Although there are laws to govern distribution of media advertising, state advertising is widely known to be used by the government to silence critics and reward supporters. In a study conducted by the nongovernmental organization Poder Ciudadano, Pagina/12, a tabloid known for its critical journalism during the Carlos Menem administration, was found to be receiving almost as much government advertising as Clarin, the largest daily in the country, and 17 percent more than the second largest, La Nacion, known for its outspoken criticism of the government. The situation in the countryside, where state-level governments control up to 75 percent of the media's advertising revenue, is even more conducive to the propagation of pro-government viewpoints. This type of "soft censorship" has been used to pressure owners to remove unfriendly coverage or critical journalists from the airwaves and news pages. For example, Jose "Pepe" Eliaschev, a radio host and outspoken critic of the government, was fired by the state-controlled broadcaster, Radio Nacional, after the station's director told him that an order had "come from above" to drop his program, "Esto Que Pasa," which had been on the air for 20 years. Foreign news broadcasts are available in Argentina, and there are no government restrictions on the internet.