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Supreme Court declares Argentina’s controversial media law constitutional

Argentine National Justice Palace. Photo via Wikipedia.

The Argentine Supreme Court declared today the country’s controversial media law constitutional, dealing the final blow to media conglomerate Clarín’s attempts to resist complying with the legislation, newspaper La Nación reported.

All judges signed the decision, with one dissenting vote from Judge Carlos Fayt and two partially dissenting opinions from Supreme Court judges Carlos Maqueda and Carmen Argibay. The majority opinion stated that the articles in question – 41, 45, 48, and 161 – are constitutional and did not “adversely affect Clarín’s economic interests or freedom of expression.”

The decision will require large media groups like Clarín to divest of many of their assets. The law states that one media group cannot own more than 24 licenses or control more than 35 percent of the national market. According to Article 161, media groups will have one year to comply with the law, starting immediately after authorities determine how it is to be implemented.

On Tuesday, Clarín’s stock fell more than 20 percent on the London Stock Exchange, and trading on the Argentine index Merval was suspended after a 5 percent dip, government news agency Telám reported.

“The Court has said time is up” for Clarín to implement the law, said Martín Sabatella, the head of the Federal Authority of Communication and Audiovisual Services (AFSCA), the organization responsible for implementing the law.

The reaction of opposition lawmakers has varied. Opposition congresswoman Elisa Carrío of the Coalición Cívica called the law “a long-time agreement” between Supreme Court Justice Ricardo Lorenzetti and government officials, according to Argentine newspaper Río Negro.

Congressman and 2011 presidential candidate Ricardo Alfonsín has called on media groups to “respect the media law,” according to Clarín. He continued: “Everyone asked that we wait until the courts decide. Now they have.”

While he asked organizations that had challenged the law to comply, he also urged organizations that are favorable toward the government and have not yet implemented its provisions to do so.

While the Court upheld the law in its entirety, they also warned that media favoritism and uneven application of the law on the part of regulatory agencies could hurt the law’s objectives of promoting democratic flow of information and multiple voices. The court warned officials not to turn public media organizations into “spaces at the service of government interests.”

The decision came after mid-term congressional elections this weekend, despite the government’s push to obtain a ruling before. Opposition lawmakers gained several seats in the elections.


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