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Chamber of Deputies passes controversial broadcasting bill

Senate must now vote on bill casting shadow over media freedom

(IPI/IFEX) - VIENNA, 17 September 2009 - The lower house of Argentina's National Congress, the Chamber of Deputies, approved late on Wednesday a controversial telecommunications bill containing provisions that endanger media freedom in the country's broadcasting sector. Argentina's Senate must now vote on the bill.

Legislators passed the draft "Audiovisual Communication Law", ostensibly aimed at creating more media pluralism in the country by replacing legislation promulgated during Argentina's military dictatorship of the early 1980s, after fourteen hours of debate, according to state news agency Télam.

The chamber passed the bill by 174 votes to four, with one abstention. Around 100 opposition politicians boycotted the vote by leaving the chamber before it took place, the Argentine daily Clarín reported, adding that the main parliamentary opposition blocks had called into question the validity of the bill.

The speed with which the executive has rushed the bill through parliament has also alarmed national and international media organisations, which have raised concerns that the draft threatens media freedom and has not received due scrutiny.

IPI on Wednesday pointed to provisions in the draft law that hand the executive too much room to influence the political tilt of broadcasting regulatory bodies, while giving the ruling party too much say in who may or may not broadcast.

"IPI is of course in favour of media pluralism, but we are concerned that this bill serves as much to consolidate government influence over broadcasting as to address the problems of Argentina's media concentration," said IPI Director David Dadge. "We hope that Argentina's Senate will recognise this, and send the bill back to the drafting table."

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