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.
Legal maneuvers and harassment of the press
For the past few years, the Fernández administration has actively taken advantage of its congressional majority to push through media reforms. A bill passed in 2009 was designed to help break up the media giant Grupo Clarín and limit monopolistic abuses by large media corporations. While positive in its goal of diversifying media providers, the bill also contained provisions that limit freedom of expression, including the creation of a politically appointed media regulatory body tasked with interpreting and implementing the law.
In December 2011, the National Congress passed two additional laws. The first declared that the production, sale, and distribution of newsprint were of “public interest.” This effectively gave the government control over Papel Prensa, the country’s only newsprint manufacturer. The second law broadened the definition of “terrorism” to include any news or commentary seen as threatening to the government. The Brazilian newspaper O Estado de São Paulo called the measure an “antiterrorism law made to terrorize journalism,” concluding, “A dictatorship couldn’t have done it better.”