Argentina is one of many countries recently criticised by Amnesty International for shortcomings in the field of human rights.
Argentina is one of many countries recently criticised by Amnesty International for shortcomings in the field of human rights. This was not the first of such criticisms; and they have been rejected by the Argentine government as incorrect and biassed. The government also insists that there is no press censorship; but the Inter-American Press Association says that no real freedom of the press exists in Argentina.
SYNOPSIS: The people of Argentina have plenty of newspapers to choose from: nearly 300 daily and evening papers alone, apart from periodicals. One -- La Prensa -- once had an international reputation. But it never recovered from being closed down for several years by the Peron government.
La Nacion is one of the larger Buenos Aires dailies, with a circulation of a quarter of a million. Argentine papers are not forced to submit to censorship in advance; but the editor may get a telephone call from a government official advising him not to publish a particular story. Usually, he complies.
Otherwise, a paper may find itself -- like the medium-sized daily La Opinion -- with a military officer in control in its newsroom. The editor, Jacobo Timerman, is in prison; and has been striped of all civil rights. He was arrested eight months ago, in connection with investigations into the David Graiver case. Graiver was a financier, reported to have been banker to the Montonero guerrillas, and to have been killed in an air crash. Stories about guerrillas are not published in Argentine newspapers. Stories about strikes are risky. A whole edition of a weekly was confiscated on the grounds that it had "exaggerated the importance" of a strike.
Television coverage of news and public events is even less likely to upset the authorities than that of the newspapers. Argentina has four main television channels, all to some extent under government control. One is run by the army, and one by the navy.
Newsmen come under other pressures too, besides that from the government. Militant groups, both of the right and left, have their own methods of suppressing a story. Journalists are threatened, and the threats sometimes carried out. A number of journalists have just disappeared.
The Buenos Aires Herald, under its British-born editor, Robert Cox, is to some extent an exception. Because it is published in English, which limits its readership, it is allowed rather more latitude than the Spanish language press. Mr. Cox says his paper is not anti-government, but does try to print all the facts. He himself was once arrested and held for 24 hours because he published a story about the Argentine Montonero guerrillas holding a press conference in Rome. Technically, it is an offence to pick up Argentine stories from newspapers abroad. The presses continue to roll in Buenos Aires and the big provincial cities, producing millions of words for the citizens to read. It is what they do not print that makes outside critics sceptical of government assurances that the press in Argentina is still free.