Supreme Court tells Argentina to avoid bias in allocating ads

New York, March 4, 2011The Committee to Protect Journalists hails a ruling by Argentina’s Supreme Court that calls for the omission of discriminatory criteria and “reasonable balance” in the allocation of state advertising. The ruling stems from a 2006 injunction filed by Editorial Perfil, the country’s largest magazine publisher, claiming arbitrary distribution of official advertising.

The Supreme Court ruling is a strong statement in support of press freedom in Argentina,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas. “We call on Congress to take the next step and promote legislation that would limit the government’s discretionary authority in allocating state advertising.”

Argentina’s highest court said Wednesday: “All media should receive official advertising: That is the difference between equal treatment and discriminatory treatment,” according to local press reports. The court’s unanimous decision upholds a 2009 ruling by a federal appeals court that withholding official advertising from several publications of Editorial Perfil violated freedom of the press as guaranteed in the Argentine constitution, CPJ research shows.

Perfil had filed a court injunction against the executive branch in July 2006, alleging that it was discriminated against by the Argentine government for its critical reporting. The company said its publications were denied government advertising and their journalists were barred access to official sources and events. The federal appeals court gave the government 15 days to place state ads in the company’s weeklies Noticias and Fortuna, and its weekend paper Perfil. The government later appealed the decision before the Supreme Court, CPJ research shows. 

Wednesday’s decision builds on a 2007 Supreme Court ruling condemning the province of Neuquén for the withdrawal of state advertising from the national daily Río Negro. In the Río Negro case, the court stated that the government cannot curb the placement of official ads to the press arbitrarily.

CPJ and other analysts have found that the administration of President Cristina Kirchner, continuing a system institutionalized during the presidency of her husband, Néstor Kirchner, has manipulated the distribution of official advertizing to economically sanction critical media and reward those that support the government. Press freedom advocates have argued that the misappropriation of government advertising violates Articles 14 and 32 of the Argentine constitution, which prohibits censorship and guaranties freedom of the press, respectively, and Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights.