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State bank punishes newspaper for critical article by withdrawing official advertising

(IAPA/IFEX) - The following is an IAPA press release:

Reprisal against journalist in Uruguay assailed by IAPA

MIAMI, Florida (May 14, 2008) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today protested the decision by a Uruguayan bank to withdraw official advertising from the weekly newspaper Búsqueda in apparent retaliation for its exposure of its lending practices.

On April 17 the Montevideo-based publication published a report on the procedure adopted by the state-owned Banco de la República Oriental del Uruguay (BROU) for the cancellation of the debt on a loan to Uruguay's Vice President Rodolfo Nin Novoa just two months after he took office in 2005.

Despite threats to the publication's reporters, in the following week's edition Búsqueda also published an interview with the bank's president, Fernando Calloia. On May 2 the bank management informed Búsqueda that it was canceling an ad the placement of which had been requested on April 11.

IAPA President Earl Maucker, editor and senior vice president of the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, newspaper Sun-Sentinel, declared, "The withdrawal of government advertising from a news outlet in revenge for its editorial policy, criticism or exposés amounts to a discriminatory action which the IAPA has always regarded as corrupt, since public funds are being used as if they were private." He added that it was hoped that "this attitude changes."

The chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Gonzalo Marroquín, regretted that placement of official advertising was continuing to be used in Uruguay as a means of punishing or rewarding news media. Marroquín, editor of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Prensa Libre, noted that his organization had been receiving complaints "on this matter almost every day in recent years," which has forced the IAPA to censure successive Uruguayan administrations from different political parties.

The IAPA attaches special importance to this issue which is referred to in the Declaration of Chapultepec's Article 7. In March the organization acknowledged progress in Argentina following a ruling by that country's Supreme Court last September that prohibits the Neuquén provincial government from discriminating against news media by arbitrarily withdrawing or reducing official advertising. As a result of this decision the Tierra del Fuego provincial government issued a decree regulating the distribution of official advertising in that southern Argentine province.

For further information on the Argentine ruling on official advertising, see:

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