In a crushing blow to freedom of expression, Argentina’s supreme court upheld government-mandated restrictions on media.
The court declared that President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s government has an obligation to prevent public media companies from exercising what the court calls a monopoly over public discourse.
In 2009, Argentina’s legislature passed the controversial Law on Audiovisual Communication Services, which sought to “decentralize and democratize” the media by regulating how much ownership a company can have in public communication outlets.
Adding insult to injury, Kirchner replaced independent media regulators with a board charged with overseeing the distribution of media licenses. The law was put into effect the following year but was temporarily postponed pending a Supreme Court review.
Even though Argentina’s constitution guarantees freedom of the media, the government represses opposition media outlets by imposing ridiculous restrictions upon them. An antiterrorism law, passed in 2011, now holds the media liable for reporting on issues that could “terrorize” the public. Additionally, the government declared that news is a “service of national interest” and, as such, is liable to government regulation. This means media outlets are now subject to government intervention for not meeting print or advertising quotas.
These government campaigns have a particular vendetta out for one company in particular: the Clarin Group. As the country’s largest media group, it has been in the government’s crosshairs for years. This recent supreme court decision now allows Kirchner to dismantle the company however she sees fit. Clarin has said that it will protect its licenses and eventually hopes to challenge the law in international courts.
Following in the steps of Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador, the Kirchner administration is attempting to transform Argentina into a place where freedom of speech and democratic ideals are dying concepts. Tuesday’s supreme court decision has essentially handed the autocratic leader ammunition to continue her assault on democracy.