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IAPA concerned over blockade of papers' printing presses

(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami, January 17, 2011 - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today labeled as a serious attack on press freedom in Argentina a blockade of the printing presses of the Buenos Aires newspapers Clarín and La Nación over the weekend, hindering their distribution, and called on the government to take immediate action to punish those responsible.

IAPA President Gonzalo Marroquín, in urging the Argentine authorities to act swiftly to end such blockades, said they amounted to "a severe attack upon freedom of the press."

Marroquín, editor of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Prensa Libre, recalled that in IAPA reports and resolutions sent to the government in recent years the organization had been calling on it to show "tolerance of the work of the press," so as to ensure respect for freedom of expression and avoid endorsing aggressive stances.

A group of some 50 demonstrators waving pro-government placards as police stood by on Saturday staged a six-hour blockade of the distribution center of the daily paper Clarín and its sister publications and that of La Nación in an adjoining building.

The chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Robert Rivard, editor of the San Antonio Express-News, Texas, said it was time that "the Argentine government stop being an accomplice and responsibly assume its role of ensuring press freedom."

Rivard added that disrupting the distribution of a newspaper is an attack on freedom of the press, as noted in the Declaration of Chapultepec and in international human rights and free speech treaties to which the Argentine government is a signatory and that it has pledged to defend.

This was the third blockade of the Clarín building in a month. A local court had prohibited the obstruction of the free circulation of newspapers and magazines and ordered the security forces to ensure its ruling was carried out. Nevertheless, the media outlets complained of apathy and sluggishness on the part of the authorities in reacting to complaints about the blockades.

The IAPA noted that laying siege to newspaper production and distribution facilities has frequently been carried out by pro-government activists in a show of force that goes beyond labor union claims.

Last week the organization also denounced the discriminatory allocation of official advertising, calling it a "shameful and recurring practice that historically has been staining freedom of the press and of expression in the country." It called for regulations that would require the Argentine federal government to apply technical and transparent criteria in deciding where to place such advertising.

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