ARGENTINE GOVERNMENT SEIZES CONTROL OF NEWSPAPERS AS EARLY CHRISTMAS PRESENT
December 23 2011
Buenos Aries, Argentina – It’s certainly been a good end-of-year for Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. First, she swept to victory in Presidential elections in October and now she has won another battle, seizing control of newsprint production which had long been held by opposition newspapers.
The Argentine Senate voted overwhelmingly to shift control of newsprint production and distribution to the government which will allow cheap materials for all newspapers, particularly those friendly to the President and her cabinet.
The bulk of newsprint production had been held by Papel Prensa , which is majority owned by two newspapers, Clarin and La Nacion, with a minority share granted to the government. Now, with complete control of the government and the traditional news media, it appears unlikely that any rival will ever be able to take control of the country ever again.
“We are defending the proposal of defending the freedom of expression of all the Argentines. This law will improve the quality of information and the plurality of opinions in Argentina,” said a government spokesperson of the victory.
Rivals, though, are not so confident that the change will benefit normal Argentineans who are still remarkably dependent on print media.
“This is not a good day. This will do more to reduce freedom of expression than anything else. We had held control of the newsprint in order to keep costs down for everyone, but now that the government is in control the costs will increase and make it more difficult to publish,” said an insider for one of the rival papers. “We made sure that the smaller papers all had access to newsprint. Yes, they often got the end of the roll and for far more than we paid, but now costs will go up and many of these papers will simply go out of business.”
Much of the newsprint production had been controlled by those two papers since the Argentine dictatorship in the 1970’s and 80’s.
In the last week, a rival television station was raided and the assets of Le Nacion were frozen, all efforts the government said to increase plurality.
“Look, just because a government controls all parts of the government and now all media assets in the nation, public and private, doesn’t mean that the people will suffer. They will still get all kinds of opinions, just ones that are approved by the government which is the way countries in this area of the world tend function, at least function efficiently,” said Scrape TV Media analyst Sarah Piper. “Sometimes you need to give up a little plurality for efficiency and that is something the people of Argentina appear ready to do. The government made no secret of their desire to control newsprint and raid offices and they were still elected, so obviously that’s what the people wanted and now they have it. It’s maybe the best Christmas present anyone could get, security.”
The President refused to speak with reporters on the issue, though most were afraid to ask.
Emil Uliya, International Correspondent