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President's office launches public campaign to discredit media outlets over coverage of farm sector protests

(IAPA/IFEX) - The following is an IAPA press release:

IAPA calls on Argentine government to respect press freedom

MIAMI, Florida (May 15, 2008) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today called on the Argentine government to be less confrontational towards news media and individual journalists as a measure to prevent an escalation of violence "which already jeopardizes press freedom in the country."

IAPA President Earl Maucker declared, "In particular we condemn the confrontational attitude that government representatives have demonstrated towards independent media and journalists, and which has clearly prompted the vandalism and violence that are restricting press freedom and the public's right to know."

In response to their reports of protests from the farm sector over a tax increase, several journalists and news outlets, especially the daily newspaper Clarín, have been the target of a public campaign by the Argentine president's office to discredit them in recent weeks.

The chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Gonzalo Marroquín, said, "If the Argentine government does not curb its anger at the press it could lead to the undesirable polarization that we have been witnessing in recent years in countries with populist governments, such as the case of Venezuela."

The recent events involve a poster campaign in Buenos Aires with such slogans as "All Negative, All Business," portraying the logo of Clarín Group's television station Canal TN, and "Clarín Lies, Clarín Puts the Squeeze On," vandalism of a Clarín booth at the local Book Fair, wiretapping of e-mails from the newspaper's editor, Ernestina Herrera de Noble, and its chief executive, Héctor Horacio Magnetto, and insults directed at reporters.

The two IAPA officers issued a joint statement saying, "At this juncture freedom of the press is being seriously undermined in the country, as there are always social misfits that go along with anything their leaders say; we hope that the Argentine president will recognize and uphold the role that the media play in a democracy."

The IAPA has been issuing warnings concerning this climate of confrontation since its meeting in Caracas in March. Its report on the state of press freedom in Argentina said that in taking office the newly-elected president had shown interest in correcting the "indifference of the political powers towards the news media . . . by giving interviews or taking part in radio and television broadcasts with no limits on questions." But since then there have been "constant rejoinders and systematic discrediting of news reports, editorial comments or investigative reporting."

For further information on the president's hostile attitude toward media, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/93169/

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