Fundación LED – Libertad de Expresión + Democracia – 2013 Year End Report

Fundación LED – Libertad de Expresión + Democracia

2013 Year End Report

As we approach the end of 2013, those of us who form part of Fundación LED (Libertad de Expresión + Democracia) have mixed feelings.

The last days of the year we took part in a case which gained nation wide momentum: Juan Pablo Suárez, the editor of the news website Ultima Hora, of the Province of Santiago del Estero, was arrested on charges of sedition while he was coveringa street protest of the provincial police for a salary increase.

There and then, Fundación LED got in touch with the colleagues of the journalist who had been unjustly arrested, spreading the news of his arrestand demanding his immediate release. As things kept getting worse and we realized that there was aclear political intent in that Court’s decisions, we decided to go ahead with more straightforward actions.

We therefore arranged several meetings in the City of Buenos Aires with Suárez’s wife (the owner of the news website in question), national legislator sand other organizations devoted to the defence of freedom of expression.

The case therefore became public nation wide and Juan Pablo Suárez was finally releasedby a Federal Court.

This experience proved most constructive for us both as an organization and as individuals. For the first time, our Foundation was directly involved in the defence of a journalist who was the victim of a situation blatantly contrary to the principles we advocate. Now we know that the experience acquired by us all this time and the capacities that our organization has developed have allowed us to rise to the occasionand strive for the principles we advocate. Further, each and every one of us has personally felt that our efforts all along this time have beenrightly targeted, and that the human connection we have established with those affected has renewed in us the belief that making even greater efforts to defend Freedom of Expression is worthwhile.

At the same time, however, this case has struck us deeply. To have arrested a media worker for ten days, in violation of human rights, on grounds of the crime of “sedition”,is such an extent of violence and is as oblivious to the rule of law as we would have never thought possible in our country.

We keep urging society (and have done so for quite some time) to reflect in earnest on the role of the State in the defence and strengthening of democratic principles. What happened in these Court proceedings shows that the debate we demand is pressing and that without the commitment of the society as a whole the near future seems highly unsettling.

During the coming year, one of the main tasks our organization has aheadwill surely be to promote an exchange of ideas between all Argentines.

2013 was also a significant year for us for other reasons.

In March, the President of our Foundation, Silvana Giudici, attended several meetings with international organizations in Washington DC, in the framework of a round of meetings organized by the Organization of American States. At those meetings she got in touch with organizations, such as Freedom House, National Endowment for Democracy, International Republican Institute and Partner for Democratic Change.

During that same trip the Red Latinoamericana en Defensa de la Libertad de Expresión (in English, Latin American Network for the Defence of Freedom of Expression) was established together with FUNDAMEDIOS, from Ecuador,and Asociación Nacional de la Prensa (in English, National Press Association), from Bolivia. This Network has been actively working since its inception, alerting society to the fact that the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of press are being increasingly affected in the region. We are currently working closely withorganizations which are kin to us in Venezuela, Uruguay and Brazil in order to expand our network.

Locally, we have forged close ties with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom and with all its partners in our country. This connection has allowed us to organizeseveral events all the year round,all of them with a positive outcome.

In March, together with other civil society organizations, our Foundation attended an informative meeting to exchange ideas on the outcome ofthe second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR),organized by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, during which our Foundation had given its opinions.

From July on, we took part in the monthly presentation at the House of Representatives of the Argentine Congress on the “Censorship Index on Print Media Advertising”, revealing to what extent has private advertising dropped in print mediaas a consequence of the pressure exerted on advertisers by the Government.

No doubt, one of the highlights of our performance all along this year was our presentation in August at the Supreme Court of Justice of Argentina requesting to be recognized as Amicus Curiae in the case against the unconstitutionality of the Audiovisual Communication Services Law, which presentation was accepted and included in the ruling by the Supreme Court.

As part of the 30 years of uninterrupted democracy celebrations, artist Marta Minujín, together with the Ministry for Culture of the City of Buenos Aires, created the “Peace Agora”, an artistic space to reflect on and disseminate democratic values, at which Fundación LED was able to make its contribution.

The above activities, as well as others carried out by our Foundation, have been included in our report. Nevertheless, we wish to make a special note and to draw society’s attention to the feelings of growing aggression towards journalists and the media that we are experiencing in our country.

As we always do, in the first months of 2014 Fundación LED shall be submitting its reporton “Limitations on the Exercise of Freedom of Expression in Argentina”. The document is almost finished and the preliminary data available actually show that in 2013 there was a strong increase of restrictions on this fundamental right.

Not only has the number of events increased. Unfortunately, such events are every time more serious. The case mentioned at the beginning of this introduction is certainly not the only one. Public officials at all levels are permanently attacking and discrediting any member of the media or any journalist who may have a critical reading of Government actions.

The drop in private sector advertising experienced by print media as a consequence of Government pressure exerted on advertisers has been a strong blow on independent media, preventing the latter fromdoing their job.

The selective, biased enforcement of current regulations by the Federal Authority of Audiovisual Communication Services is a serious impediment preventing themedia from transmitting their views if theysee things differently from the Government.

The practice of using state agencies as a tool to exert pressure on anybody who may upset the Government by makingannoyingstatements has become as frequent asreprehensible.

The above difficulties translate into a scenario in which expressing ideas without being at risk is becoming every time more and more difficult. We believe that 30 years of uninterrupted democracy have earned our society full exercise of its rights. Our Republic is not just an institutional arrangement seeking to appease abuse of power by means of the separation of powers and alternating administrations. It is fundamentally an idea in which liberties are guaranteed and defended inasmuch as they are a vehicle to achieve a society which is every day fairer.

At Fundación LED we shall continue to work so that the principles weadvocate may be exercised without limitations in our country. This summary of our 2013 activities is intendedfor all those who have stood by us and for all those who share the values that keep us alive.

Please log into the following link for a detailed report on Fundación LED (Libertad de Expresión + Democracia) activities during 2013.