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Court orders Argentine government to provide state advertising contracts to "Perfil" newspaper; Guatemalan government suspends all state advertising in print media

(IAPA/IFEX) - The following is a 12 February 2009 IAPA press release:

IAPA welcomes Argentine court ruling on official advertising
Also criticizes Guatemalan government's discriminatory decision

Miami (February 12, 2009) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today expressed satisfaction at a court ruling in Argentina requiring the government to place official advertising in the newspaper Perfil. At the same time it criticized Guatemala's federal government for suspending state advertising in all print media in the Central American country.

In Argentina this week, the government, which has been accused of placing official advertising as a means to reward or punish news media, was ordered by the Federal Administrative Affairs Court to provide advertising to Perfil and its associated publications within 15 days.

IAPA President Enrique Santos Calderón declared, "This is an important step for freedom of the press," recalling that the organization has sent two missions to Argentina in recent years to protest government discrimination against Perfil and other newspapers in the country's interior.

Santos Calderón also recalled that the court decision upheld an Argentine Supreme Court ruling that prohibited governments from discriminating in the placement of official advertising. "We always recommend that this decision be taken into account by other governments that do not apply technical criteria and measurements in their distribution of official advertising," he said.

The recent court decision maintained that "unequal treatment among publications - both those that announce their circulation figures and those that do not - is a clear violation of the principle of freedom of the press and must be corrected immediately." It added that without the principles of equality and freedom of expression "democracy does not exist in the country."

Meanwhile, Robert Rivard, chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, criticized a February 4 decision by the government of Guatemala to suspend all announcements in the country's print media, citing budgetary problems, although it said it would continue contracting space with online media.

"While we understand that a government may have limited freedom of action and intends to be efficient in handling public monies it cannot ignore technical criteria such as penetration and effectiveness, discriminating in favor of one kind of media outlet over others," Rivard added.

The IAPA officers said that this "old and subtle method" used by governments will be one of the main issues that the organization will take up next month in Paraguay at its Midyear Meeting, which will focus on the state of press freedom in the Americas.

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