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Election law forces Argentinian newspapers to give free space to political parties

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today [29 June 2015] condemned a decision by the Higher Court of Justice of the Argentine province of Córdoba that rejected legal claims of unconstitutionality of electoral laws that require publications to grant free space to political parties at election times.

The media companies Contenidos Mediterránenos SA and La Voz del lnterior SA, which publish the newspapers Día a Día and La Voz del Interior in Córdoba, filed claims of unconstitutionality against provincial electoral laws 9,571 (2008) and 9,839 (2010). The provincial Higher Court of Justice on June 23 rejected the suits and upheld the laws which require newspapers in the province to grant a page free of charge to publish parties' political announcements during the 10 days prior to each election in Córdoba. The elections are scheduled for July 5.

IAPA President Gustavo Mohme, editor of the Lima, Peru, newspaper La República, was emphatic. He declared, “To expropriate a news media space to disseminate political messages without considering its fair price constitutes an unacceptable kind of expropriation, with the aggravating circumstance that it involves spaces which a media outlet should be free to inform society as it sees fit.”

Claudio Paolillo, chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, added, “Such norms, perhaps created with good intentions, have the contrary effect of restricting freedom of the press, the free practice of journalism and free enterprise, by imposing what it is that should be published.” Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, cited the Declaration of Chapultepec and the Declaration of Principles of Freedom of Expression, in which it is established that the arbitrary imposition of information is directly opposed to press freedom.

The IAPA agreed with the Association of Argentine News Entities (ADEPA), which expressed concern at the provincial court's ruling, stating that the obligation to reproduce parties' proposals is “a clear case of censorship. To force a privately-owned graphic media to publish something that it does not wish to publish is an act of censorship, as serious as when it is prevented from publishing certain editorial content.”

ADEPA called on Córdoba Governor José Manuel de la Sota to overturn the laws. La Voz del Interior editor Carlos Jornet announced that his paper would be filing an appeal with the Argentine Supreme Court, although it would be publishing the political ads under protest.

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