Argentina and freedom of the press: 15 Minutes on Latin America

Today’s podcast topic at 11AM Eastern:
Argentina’s censorship through court decree

Related articles:
Argentine President seizes newspapers’ firm

The Government has moved to take over the country’s only newsprint maker, alleging that two leading newspapers illegally conspired with dictators to control the company three decades ago and then used it to drive rival media out of business.

President Cristina Fernandez said the courts should decide whether the newspapers, Clarin and La Nacion, should be charged with crimes against humanity, and specifically whether the newsprint company was illegally expropriated by the papers and the military junta.

The companies
, with which Ms Fernandez has been feuding for two years, deny any illegality in the acquisition of the newsprint maker, or other crimes. They have accused the President of trying to control the essential material needed to guarantee freedom of expression, a position supported by the Inter-American Press Association and other media groups.

On Tuesday, Ms Fernandez insisted she was defending those rights. She accused Clarin and La Nacion of using the newsprint company, Papel Prensa SA, to impose media monopolies on Argentina and stifling other viewpoints by refusing to sell paper at fair prices to competitors.

Cristina Fernandez has been in office since 2007; her husband Néstor Kirchner was the President of Argentina from May 25, 2003 until December 10, 2007. Obviously they weren’t too bothered by much that happened during the junta’s years if they waited this long to do anything about it.

Feud With Clarin Deepens Bond Rout as JPMorgan Says Sell: Argentina Credit

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s growing confrontation with the country’s largest newspaper is exacerbating the biggest tumble in its dollar bonds in two months and prompting JPMorgan Chase & Co. to recommend investors cut holdings.

The yield on the South American country’s benchmark 7 percent securities due in 2015 increased 74 basis points, or 0.74 percentage point, since Aug. 23, the biggest two-day jump since June 7, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Emerging- market bond yields climbed an average of 18 basis points during the same period, according to JPMorgan indexes.

The New York bank advised investors to sell holdings of the securities, citing concern that “domestic political conflicts are escalating” and global growth is slowing, after benchmark yields fell to their lowest since November 2007 this month. Fernandez, 57, asked a court this week to review the 1976 purchase of a newsprint producer by Grupo Clarin SA, a move opposition leaders say is an attempt to silence critics in the media.

“It’s the type of news that starts to unnerve the market, particularly against this global backdrop and after prices have rallied a lot,” said Alberto Ramos, an economist with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in New York.

Argentina takeover of paper mill heats up feud with media
Argentines debated a decision by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to take over the country’s largest newsprint mill, the latest episode in her feud with the media.

And then there are the unions and the opposition:

By declaring war on Argentina’s most powerful opinion-former, the Kirchners are gambling with their political future. If they can bloody the company enough to make its management seek a truce, they could secure friendlier coverage of the 2011 presidential election. Even then, however, the strategy might backfire. First, it has made them look hypocritical: by trying to kill Fibertel, they have made the already-concentrated ISP market even more so. Moreover, they have given the fractious opposition a new cause to unite around.


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