Pro-government group defends Argentina media law

AP News
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Posted: Nov 09, 2009 4:43 PM

Argentine journalists, academics and ruling party lawmakers met Monday to challenge the conclusions of an international media group that Latin American leaders are exerting too much control over the press.

Supporters of a controversial new Argentine media law say it will limit monopolies and maintain a diversity of news outlets regardless of wealth. Critics at the annual meeting of the Inter American Press Association in Buenos Aires say it threatens freedom of expression.

"The best response to this chorus of dinosaurs is to push forth our democratic mechanisms," said Luis Lazzaro of the Federal Counsel of Audiovisuals Communication, a state-sponsored organization that regulates local radio and television stations.

Argentina's law, passed last month, preserves two-thirds of the digital spectrum for noncommercial radio and TV stations and gives political appointees a powerful role in granting licenses and regulating content.

Unless legal challenges succeed, Grupo Clarin _ a frequent government critic and one of Latin America's largest newspaper and cable TV companies _ will be forced to sell many of its properties within a year.

President Cristina Fernandez also signed a decree last week ordering newspapers and magazines to be sold exclusively at union-run stands. Editors fear the government now can use friendly unions to prevent the distribution of newspapers that don't follow the ruling party line.

"They seek the legal tools to silence the press along with a campaign to discredit the media," said Enrique Santos Calderon, president of the press association.

"We've been in each of the countries where there have been threats to the freedom of expression," Calderon said at the meeting of major Western Hemisphere media organizations that ends Tuesday. "We can rest assured that the IAPA remains active and strong and is being heard with great conviction where it is needed."