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IAPA protests intimidation campaign against newspaper

(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami (August 26, 2009) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today condemned new attacks against Clarín newspaper executives and its buildings, calling on Argentine authorities to conduct a prompt investigation to end the wave of violence that could end in greater violations of press freedom and the public's right to know.

In a clear act designed to intimidate, a Clarín building was again attacked; this time the newspaper's offices in Rosario, 180 miles north of Buenos Aires, were raided by unidentified assailants early Monday morning. Press and office equipment was scattered, displays were knocked over and boxes smashed. No computers or televisions were stolen. The vandalism was reported to the local police.

In another development the newspaper's executives complained of unannounced audits by the Federal Public Revenue Administration (AFIP) of companies belonging to the Clarín Group, among them Torneos y Competencias, Televisión Satelital Codificada and Telerred Imagen Sociedad Anónima. These are believed to be linked to a recent controversy over the televised broadcast of soccer games subject to a new agreement between the Argentine Football Association and the government of President Cristina de Kirchner.

There have also been reports of incidents in Buenos Aires and a number of inland cities in recent weeks of unidentified persons placing posters and painting graffiti against Clarín and its executives, in acts considered to be linked to a new broadcast law that is expected to come before the National Congress for debate tomorrow (Thursday). Other actions include attacks on the home of Clarín Group Public Affairs Manager Pablo Casey and suspicious surveillance of the home of the newspaper's foreign editor, Jorge Rendo, for three days.

IAPA President Enrique Santos Calderón, editor of the Bogotá, Colombia, newspaper El Tiempo, declared, "The actions against Clarín do not appear to be random acts, rather they look more like a scheme aimed at intimidating the newspaper. In order to eliminate all doubt, we call upon the authorities to investigate these complaints and go after those responsible. Otherwise, failure to punish the guilty could degenerate into greater violations of press freedom and the public's right to know."

For his part, Robert Rivard, chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information and editor of the San Antonio Express-News, Texas, added that "this is not the first time we see public campaigns to degrade news media and journalists in Argentina."

In March this year the IAPA condemned the jamming of the Grupo Clarín satellite television signal which caused broadcast interruptions, while in May it complained of anti-Clarín slogans painted on the walls of the newspaper's ad sales kiosks throughout Buenos Aires.

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