Argentina’s Free Newspapers Face Starvation by Government Decree

In Argentina, it’s a tough time to be a newspaper publisher. That’s because the country’s president, Cristina Kirchner, has gone after the lifeblood of a free press by sending a message to convince grocery store owners not to advertise in papers that disagree with government policy.

Mary Anastatia O’Grady writes in today’s WSJ about an ongoing attempt to curb the country’s massive inflation, which this year will hit 25%.  There is a vocal press in the country that insists on running stories publicizing the facts about the economy.  This is a country that is still in trouble over its decision in 2001 to default on their billions of dollars of bonds, so there’s a lot of bad things to hide.

Kirchner has been able to control the big budgets the government normally spends on advertising, $100 million a year,  to punish newspapers like Clarin, which reported on a meeting that introduced the ban on advertising. On Feb 4, Argentina’s minister of domestic commerce Guillermo Moreno decreed that supermarkets had to freeze their prices for 60 days.  Part of how he proposed to do this was to halt the purchase of print advertising in Buenos Aires and the surrounding area’s media outlets.  It’s the independent newspapers that face the advertising boycott, while the paper that supports her, La Nacion has seen a 63% increase in spending from the government.

Now Clarin is losing another government customer, the Spanish telephone company Telefonica. They have a contract for advertising space but now it’s all been cancelled, which hits Clarin for a $5 million loss. If this continues, readers in Argentina will only have the government newspapers and television to report the news.  And it will probably all be very good, leaving out the bad news about Kirchner’s running of the country.