Explanation sought for cancellation of two shows

August 3, 2006

President Néstor Carlos Kirchner
Republic of Argentina
Casa Rosada
Balcarce 24
Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires

Via facsímile: 54-11-4344-3700

Mr. President:

The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by the cancellation of two independent shows on state-owned media amid allegations of government censorship and editorial interference.

The weekly news show “Desayuno,” hosted by independent journalist Víctor Hugo Morales on Channel 7, was suddenly canceled on July 8. Néstor Piccone, content coordinator for Channel 7, told Morales that the show was canceled because the station wanted to control the editorial line of its programming.

Morales, who also directs a show for the private Radio Continental, was on assignment in Germany when he was informed of the cancellation. Morales has covered issues sensitive to your government, including the conflict with Uruguay over the construction of paper pulp mills and the removal of a deputy-elect accused of human rights abuses.

In January, CPJ expressed concern after another prominent journalist, José “Pepe” Eliaschev, alleged government censorship when his radio show was abruptly canceled. His program “Esto Que Pasa,” on state-owned Radio Nacional, had been on the air since 1985. Eliaschev, who also writes a column for the weekly newspaper Perfil, is a critic of your policies.

In the wake of Elisachev’s allegation, CPJ asked authorities on January 4 to provide a full and prompt explanation. Officials have not responded.

These two cases take place amid Argentine officials’ increasing intolerance of criticism in the media. Following an often-used tactic, you and administration allies recently sought to discredit journalists who criticized new laws allowing expenditure changes without congressional approval.

Both Channel 7 and Radio Nacional are part of the National System of Public Media (SNMP). According to presidential decree N94/2001, signed on May 18, 2001, for the creation of SNMP, the first goal set by the public media system is to “ensure the Argentine people the right to plural, impartial, and truthful information.”

As part of SNMP, Channel 7 and Radio Nacional are legally bound to serve the Argentine public–and not the interests of a particular administration–by providing diverse opinion and by exerting editorial independence.

We’re concerned that authorities have not clarified the motives behind the abrupt cancellation of the two programs. As an independent organization dedicated to defending press freedom worldwide, CPJ urges you to publicly explain the reasons for the cancellation of the two shows.

Thank you for your attention on this serious matter. We await your prompt response.

Sincerely yours,

Joel Simon
Executive Director