December 7 will mark the death of press freedom in Argentina, if the country’s largest media conglomerate, Grupo Clarín, is to be believed. That date is the deadline by which Clarín must divest many of its assets or see them forcibly auctioned off in accordance with a 2009 media law. As in much of Latin America, Argentine media are controlled by a relatively small collection of private owners, and the law aimed to open the media landscape to a greater diversity of voices by limiting the number of licenses a single company can hold. However, Grupo Clarín and free speech advocates have argued that the government-backed legislation violates property rights and threatens freedom of the press. Given the contentious relationship between Clarín and the government, the group insists it is being unfairly targeted for political reasons.
During the years after World War II, a phenomenon emerged in several countries of communist Eastern Europe called “anti-Semitism without Jews.” Although the Holocaust had all but annihilated Jewish populations throughout the region, postwar communist regimes exploited lingering anti-Jewish sentiment to divert attention from their failures. Communist leaders would not, of course, refer directly to Jews when they denounced the enemies of socialism. They spoke instead of “cosmopolitan elements,” or used other stock phrases that evoked the notion of Jews as outsiders with suspect loyalties. The fact that few Jews—and no Jewish capitalists—remained in these countries was of little importance. When the leadership encountered difficulties, blaming the Jews remained a tried-and-true means of deflecting public frustrations over the lack of prosperity or freedom. Today, something similar is under way in Latin America, though Jews are not the chosen scapegoat. The pattern in this case could be described as “anti-imperialism without imperialists.”
At a rally commemorating the ninth anniversary of the electoral victory of her late husband, former president Néstor Kirchner, President Fernández sang the praises of Argentina’s vibrant democracy and political progress. Under the slogan “United and Organized,” her fiery 45-minute speech was enthusiastically received by the estimated 100,000 supporters in attendance. However, most in the Argentine media would beg to differ with their president’s depiction of the current level of democracy in the country. Indeed, contrary to Fernández’s idealistic portrayal, freedom of speech in Argentina is in a dismal state, and is poised to worsen before it improves.