Argentine President Javier Milei during a three-hour, April 15 interview in which he attacked Perfil media group's editorial coverage. (Screenshot: Neura Media/YouTube)
Argentine President Javier Milei during a three-hour, April 15 interview in which he attacked Perfil media group's editorial coverage. (Screenshot: Neura Media/YouTube)

CPJ urges Argentine President Javier Milei to end attacks on press freedom

São Paulo, April 30, 2024—Argentine President Javier Milei and his administration must immediately refrain from attacking press freedom, stigmatizing journalists, and allow journalists to do their jobs freely and without restrictions, the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Tuesday.

During his first 100 days in office, a report by FOPEA, a local press freedom organization, found that four out of every 10 attacks on the press involved Milei or his ministers. In a new report, FOPEA recorded another 17 press freedom attacks between March 19 and April 18 in which Milei was responsible for 53% of the cases, using stigmatizing language to describe journalists, such as “corrupt,” “liars,” and “extortioners,” and encouraging administrative officials not to sit for interviews, FOPEA President Paula Moreno told CPJ in a phone interview.

“This generates an asymmetric relationship that exposes journalists in a very dangerous way,” Moreno said.

“President Javier Milei must stop attacking the press and allow journalists to have a discourse with public authorities,” said CPJ Latin America Program Coordinator Cristina Zahar. “Stigmatizing journalism leads to the erosion of press credibility, and verbal attacks against journalists creates a dangerous precedent that can incite forms of physical violence, online harassment, threats, arrests, and even murder.”

Jorge Lanata, the founder of newspaper Página 12 and a journalist with a career spanning 40 years, told CPJ in a phone interview that Milei called him a “liar” and “corrupt” on X, formerly Twitter, after he criticized the presence of the Israeli ambassador in a cabinet meeting at Casa Rosada, during an April 15 episode of his Radio Mitre show.

“Milei is paranoid. He thinks everyone is involved in a plot to depose him. He reacts strongly against simple comments, not necessarily criticism, as if the discourse between a President and a civilian was even—and it is not,” Lanata told CPJ, adding that Milei posted his comment on X during the journalist’s live show. 

Lanata, who also hosts an investigative journalism show on the Spanish channel Trece, rejected Milei’s accusations and instructed his lawyers to file a complaint on April 18 in federal court, which CPJ reviewed, accusing the president of libel and slander, according to news reports

Editorial Perfil, a 47-years-old media group, was also targeted by Milei during an over three-hour long radio interview on April 9, in which the president celebrated Perfil’s possible bankruptcy. On the same day, Perfil CEO Jorge Fontevecchia, responded to Milei on Perfil’s Modo Fontevecchia program on Net TV. 

“Look, President, the military dictatorship could not break us; [former President Carlos] Menem could not break us at the time of the 30 trials […]; [former President] Néstor Kirchner could not break us by putting zero official advertising; neither will you be able to,” he said.

Fontevecchia told CPJ in a Zoom interview that he filed four complaints against Milei on April 20: one for advertising discrimination, another for slander, and two for damages. “Each attack on the press is unique, and not everyone has the means to access justice, but in our case we decided to prosecute, even if it is time consuming,” said Fontevecchia.

Also on April 20, Fontevecchia won a case he filed in 2006 that accused the government of discriminating against Perfil when placing official advertising. In 2011, the Supreme Court had ordered the stopping of this practice, and in 2024 the federal court also recognized that Perfil and other media groups should receive compensation from the government for not receiving official advertising between 2004 and 2014. 

CPJ contacted Milei’s press office by phone message but did not immediately receive a response.