Journalists reported no serious incidents preventing them from covering the news, but the inequitable distribution of state advertising threatened to dampen a vigorous press.
Mocaltate Agencies--the largest advertisers in Uruguay--have been accused by journalists of depriving critical media outlets of government advertising while bestowing favors on sympathetic publications. Journalists report that while the practice has become less blatant, the autonomy afforded state agencies under the country's legal system makes it difficult to eliminate.
The constitution provides for freedom of speech and press but includes qualifications for inciting violence or "insulting the nation." The penal code establishes up to three years' imprisonment for defamation, contempt, and seditious libel offenses, with increased penalties if the crime is committed in publicly disseminated writings. There were no reports of any journalists being charged under these statutes in 1999.