Thursday, October 18, 2012
By Fernán Saguier
Conversation topic number one among editors on the continent: the maximum alert that reigns over what is happening with the independent media in Argentina.
A topic on permanent display in the powerful and growing Brazilian press: the many and every day more unmasked forms of constant Kirchnerist siege of the critical media.
An inescapable topic for foreign correspondents in Buenos Aires: what is going to happen around December 10. That is the date that the President of the Nation herself set for the government to intervene in the media of Clarin Group.
Argentina is on everyone’s lips. It’s been the exclusive protagonist of the meeting of the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) concluded here with 450 editors from the 1300 publications that are members from Canada to Tierra del Fuego.
The permanent and hostile presidential references towards the men of the press, the immense state and private communications apparatus dedicated to reviling politicians, businessmen and journalists who are critical, the discrimination by official publicity, the media law and Papel Prensa... All of it causes perplexity and amazement.
The most noted editors and directors of newspapers in the region, those that form opinion from the editorial columns, and decide from the newsrooms what stories to cover and what importance they’ll rank on these pages, websites, mobile phones and in many cases as well, radio and TV networks, responded in a conclusive manner in consultation with LA NACION.
The question was: what perception to you have over what is happening in Argentina with the independent media? The outlook could not be worst. So we see:
Roberto Gazzi, director of Editorial Development of O Estado de São Paulo: "The attacks by the government against the free press should be viewed with great concern. Brazilians and Argentines both recently lived through terrible times in their histories, marked by dictatorships that impeded the work of the free press. In the name of a false democratization of the media, the construction of one voice alone is being sought by power. The Argentine government’s attitude goes against history.”
Alizio Maranhao, news director for O Globo: "Cristina Kirchner has shown herself to be an applied disciple of the caudillo Hugo Chavez. Her inability to live alongside diverse opinion is part of the Chavista DNA. From there comes the authoritarian backlash against what is left of the independent media, which is part of a wider effort which includes manipulation of public funds in publicity as well as the mounting of an enormous state network of communication, as well as that which is under official influence, with the support of the subjugated press, something typical of totalitarian regimes. The attack on freedom of the press is an aspect of the project of reducing individual liberties in general.”
Miguel Enrique Otero, director of El Nacional, of Caracas, Venezuela: “What is happening in Argentina is the continuation of a common strategy on the continent which in Venezuela the government officiated as ‘communicational hegemony’”. At its core the objective is that populist and authoritarian leaders endure in power modifying constitutions and silencing the independent press. The head of State is dedicated to giving instructions, insulting and threatening, intervening in the official media to signal to those journalists whom they should attack, including physically. In this scheme of permanent aggression free journalism is permanently threatened.”
Felipe Edwards, director of El Mercurio, of Chile: "Equal to what is in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua, the attacks are marked together with measures that seek to weaken the autonomy of the judicial and legislative branches. Freedom of expression faces a serious threat. The aggressions against the press and companies that sustain it are an attack on the readers, the citizens to whom power should serve and, in essence, undermines democracy itself.”
Carlos Pérez, director of El Universo, of Ecuador: "There is no worse terrorism than state terrorism. All oppression, all limitation of original rights by constitutive power is the greatest threat for liberty and civilization. The history of the fight for democracy and for liberties is the history against the trampling and abuses of power. There is no greater enemy than this enemy, also much more harmful and dangerous for freedom is when it says it is defending it. That and nothing else is the issue that is coming forward today in Argentina.”
Roberto Rock, editorial director of El Universal, of Mexico: "President Kirchner has decided to open a trench between her administration and Argentine reporters, who every day observe the deteriorating conditions with which they work due to an authority that has the duty to respect and defend freedom of expression.”
Gustavo Mohme, director of La República, of Peru: "The government insists on attacking the press. In this occasion, with the announcements about December 10, seeking to pressure the Judicial Branch and blaming the media for what is happening in the country. It’s always trying shock effects to distract attention and to not have to deal with the complaints coming from the citizenry. It’s obvious that we are facing a continuous retreat of freedom of the press in Argentina.”
Cristina Aby Azar, editor of The Wall Street Journal Americas: "I was just in Buenos Aires and I was shocked and saddened to hear the reports from my colleagues. Official actions to restrict and make difficult the work of journalists is all the more aggressive and common. With the re-election of President Chavez, the general perception of the media and the business community is that Cristina Kirchner will go further than the Bolivarian revolution in her impact against independent media and the private sector.”
Washington Beltrán, director of El País, of Montevideo, Uruguay: "Cristina Kirchner was very clear when she announced some time ago ‘now we’re going all out’, which one supposes is to concentrate more power and avoid focal points of criticism that alert the citizenry to the dangers of what that implies. The citizens should understand what is in play is not the future of this or that medium of communication but their right to be informed, to express themselves and to denounce departures from republican democratic principles. If they surrender this battle, they will have handed over not only a banner but their way of life.”
María Elvira Domínguez Lloreda, director of El País, of Cali, Colombia: "We are observing with worry the way that the Argentine government uses the law to interfere with the work of the free press, that which is not on the side of the regime and denounces its abuses and errors. Legislation is used to reduce the economic capacity of the independent media and to put obstacles in the way of its mission as the eyes and ears of the society that they are a part of.”
José Luis Correa, director of El Siglo, of Panama: "We are deeply worried about what is happening in Argentina. What is happening is an attack on the heart of democracy itself, every time that the right to inform and give an opinion constitutes a human right. To violate that is very serious and affects the entire democratic system and free thought.”
Jorge Canahuati, director of La Prensa, of Honduras: "The systematic attacks against critical journalism only show the weakness of those that are orchestrating them, as they want a blind citizenry and weak institutions to advance with their unmeasured ambitions.”
Cristian Bofill, director of La Tercera, Chile: "Argentina is the most shocking example of how a government could be elected in a democratic way and at the same time show in the exercise of its mandate a great disdain for the institutions and rules of peaceful coexistence.”
Claudio Paolillo, director of the magazine Búsqueda, of Uruguay: "The situation is very serious. Argentina is at the point of becoming one of the worst places for the exercise of free journalism.”
To read this article in Spanish, visit: En alerta máxima