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Argentinian government calls for public auction of media group's holdings

Martín Sabbatella arrives at the Grupo Clarín offices in Buenos Aires October 31, 2013
Martín Sabbatella arrives at the Grupo Clarín offices in Buenos Aires October 31, 2013

REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today [10 October 2014] expressed concern at a new legal offensive unleashed by the Argentine government against the Grupo Clarín newspaper group, which was ordered to break up its news media outlets under the government's criteria.

On Wednesday at a press conference Martín Sabbatella, president of the Audiovisual Communication Services Federal Authority (AFSCA), announced that the government was rejecting Grupo Clarín's own restructuring plan and that he would use his authority to break it up, after accusing the company of seeking to maintain its "dominant position", attempting to "mock" the Audiovisual Communication Services Law.

Last year, after the Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of the law, Grupo Clarín submitted a proposed restructuring plan, dividing its media assets into six different companies, which at the time was accepted by the government.

The chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Claudio Paolillo, voiced concern at what he called this "new offensive". He said that the manner in which it was announced that the law must be complied with "appeared to be more an act of propaganda, in which the government argues legality but in which it always shows an arrogant attitude, typical of its discriminatory campaigns and habitual reprisals against the independent press and particularly against Clarín".

Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, recalled that the IAPA had supported the Supreme Court's arguments on the need for the law to be applied without discrimination and through regulatory bodies independent of the powers that be. "These are basic guarantees needed for press freedom to be respected," he declared.

Sabbatella announced that the government would proceed in November with the dismantling of Grupo Clarin, which would include valuation of the various companies owned by the group and a call for a public auction. Grupo Clarín said that it would seek recourse to the courts.

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