According to a report released today by the nonprofit Asociación por los Derechos Civiles (Association for Civil Rights), or ADC, the Argentine government drastically increased its advertising budget in 2007, using public funds to reward friendly media, punish critical outlets, and promote the political campaign of current President Cristina Fernández who replaced her husband Néstor Kirchner last December. The federal government spent more than 322 million pesos (US$105 million) on official ads in 2007, a 55 percent increase over the same period in 2006, ADC said in its survey.
The report found irregularities in the distribution of state advertising. In the two months leading up to the October presidential elections, for example, the executive branch spent almost 6 million pesos (US$2 millions) in ads promoting "visits" that provided information on political campaign stops by the presidential couple. Those ads were abruptly slashed, oddly, right after Fernández was elected president. According to the daily Crítica de la Argentina, the Kirchners had an advantage: it was the government, not their party, that financed many of these ads.
In an October 2006 special report "News for Sale," CPJ documented how Néstor Kirchner had institutionalized a system of rewards for supportive media and advertising embargoes for critics during his three terms as provincial governor in Santa Cruz and his one term as president. Because national and local governments are not bound by clear rules concerning the placement of advertising, CPJ found, the targeted influx of ad dollars had influenced press coverage.
Carlos Lauría, CPJ's program director and senior program coordinator for the Americas, is a widely published journalist. A native of Buenos Aires, he has written extensively for Noticias, the leading Spanish-language newsmagazine. Follow him on Facebook @ CPJ en Español.
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