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IAPA insists on clear rules for the allocation of state advertising, protests discriminatory practices

(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami, January 14, 2011 - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today condemned discrimination shown in the placement of official advertising by the government of Argentina, calling it a "shameful and recurring practice that has been tarnishing press freedom and free speech in the country," and one that needs to be regulated.

IAPA President Gonzalo Marroquín said that in light of the complaints voiced about the misuse of public funds for government advertising and propaganda "what is needed is to reopen an in-depth debate in Argentina to come up with regulations that enable technical and transparent criteria to be applied in the distribution of official advertising."

In its twice-yearly report on Argentina and several other countries in the region, the IAPA has insistently been labeling as "a deeply-entrenched corrupt practice' the awarding of government advertising contracts to "friendly" media, and the withholding of them from independent ones.

Recent figures compiled by the Buenos Aires newspaper La Nación show that in 2010 the federal government spent 107 million pesos (some US$27 million) of public funds in the media, 67.5% of the money going to programs broadcast by Canal 9, a television channel owned by a businessman closely identified with the government, and ignoring other media outlets with bigger audiences.

"Official advertising is an important part of the activities of the government in a democracy," declared Marroquín, editor of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Prensa Libre, "but when badly administered it is an act of corruption that goes against the people themselves, so we fail to understand why the legislature is paralyzed over this issue."

For his part, the co-chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Claudio Paolillo, editor of the Uruguayan weekly news magazine Búsqueda, deplored the fact that the Argentine government has remained indifferent to the denunciations of this "shameful and recurring practice which has been tarnishing press freedom and free speech in the country."

Paolillo noted that the IAPA in recent years has sent a number of missions to Argentina and issued resolutions, reports and recommendations regarding this issue, but that no government there in recent decades has taken any action to prevent the discriminatory use of public funds in the placement of official advertising.

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