Cablegate: Report Criticizes Media Coverage of Argentine Agricultural


DE RUEHBU #0486/01 1061822
R 151822Z APR 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: Buenos Aires 0386

1. (SBU) Summary: A report released by the University of Buenos
Aires's School of Social Sciences on April 5 sharply criticizes the
Argentine media's coverage of the recent agricultural crisis in
Argentina. The timing of the report's release, however, raised
serious concerns, as it coincided with a speech by President
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (CFK) in which she strongly
criticized the press and urged the media to avoid discrimination in
their reporting of the farm strike. The government has also said it
will reactivate an "observatory of discriminatory attitudes," a body
designed to monitor the media, which had been in disuse. Finally,
Nestor Kirchner and a youth organization tied to his political
apparatus have launched a public campaign to criticize the largest
daily paper and media group, Clarin, for lying and abuse of power.
All of this has set off a vigorous defense of press freedom by the
media and media professional associations - concerned that the CFK
administration is attempting to restrict freedom of the press. End

2. (U) The School of Social Sciences at the University of Buenos
Aires released a report on April 5 criticizing the media's coverage
of the 21-day agricultural sector lockout (see reftel and previous
for Embassy reporting on the agricultural strike). Through its
analysis of newspaper and television coverage, the School of Social
Sciences reports that the media attempted to "portray the government
as authoritarian, and the demands of the people (protesting) as more
democratic." The report declares the presence of "unacceptable
examples of discriminatory treatment of social actors." It accuses
the press of subtly attempting to cause destabilization through a
one-sided approach to the agricultural crisis.

3. (SBU) On April 4, CFK met with the school's dean, Federico
Schuster, and invited his school to participate in an organization
created in November 2006 "to detect discriminatory attitudes in the
media." This body, which is an organization under the executive
branch, includes the Federal Committee on Broadcasting (COMFER), the
Institute Against Discrimination and Xenophobia (INADI), and the
Council of Women, and claims its purpose is to monitor the work of
the free media, although it had been largely inactive since its
inception. Its reanimation, however, in the wake of CFK's and other
administration officials' very critical reaction to media coverage
is generating and concern that the GOA is attempting to exercise
control of the media and restrict freedom of the press.

4. (U) In her recent public speeches during and after the 21-day
farm strike, President Kirchner sharply criticized the media's
coverage of the agricultural crisis as biased towards the
protestors. While she assured citizens that they deserve to read
varied opinions and stories, she urged the media to "reject and
avoid discriminatory practices." President Kirchner claimed that
the media coverage served to increase the tension between the
farmers and the GOA during the lockout.

5. (U) CFK's specific anti-media remarks on April 1 come following
the publication of a caricature of the President in leading daily
"Clarin." The drawing, created by respected cartoonist Hermenegildo
Sabat, appeared earlier that day, and shows the President with an
"X" across her mouth and, on the side of her face, the profile of
her husband, ex-president Nestor Kirchner, alluding to the "dual
command" of the presidency. CFK publicly stated she was offended by
the "X" across her mouth, which she took as a "mafia-style" message
that she should not speak out.

6. (U) An organization called "Youth K" led by the Kirchners' son,
Maximo, convened on Friday to launch a public campaign against
leading daily, Clarin and the 24 hour news TV channel of the Clarin
media group. Representatives from more than 40 organizations
participated in the demonstration. There, ex-president Nestor
Kirchner raised a poster criticizing Clarin. Many posters displayed
the slogan "All negative," playing on the phrase "All news."
Participants defended their actions saying that they only used words
rather than violence to make their point.

7. (U) The media has launched a vigorous defense of press freedom in
response to presidential discourse. In their statements, news
sources and professional press organizations defended the right of
the press to speak out freely, declaring that freedom of the press
is essential for the development of a democratic society. They
protest that the media needs to be allowed to express information as
well as their own opinions. Therefore, the CFK administration
should respect this liberty. The statements and editorial comments
profess that the government's attempts to accuse the press of
discriminatory articles only reinforces the media's characterization
of the current government's authoritarian attitudes.

8. (SBU) Comment: Both Kirchners have had a rocky relationship with
the Argentine media. CFK's latest comments and the creation of this
"observatory" for discrimination in the media give credence to
commentators' claims of the administration's intolerance towards
those who do not share their views. Concerns have been deepened by

reports that the GOA will soon introduce a new law to govern
concentration of media ownership. Local and regional media
organizations such the Inter American Press Association have
criticized the Kirchners for several years over their antagonistic
attitude toward the media and less-than-transparent manipulation of
the government's large official advertising budget. The creation of
this new media organization continues this trend. Embassy will keep
a close eye on this issue. End Comment.


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