Journalists Insulted in Official Government Statement

Fundación LED (Libertad de Expresión + Democracia) has voiced its concern about the statement made by the country´s National Executive Branch, signed by the Secretary General to the President, Oscar Parrili, in connection with the information broadcasted in Periodismo para Todos (Journalism for Everybody), the program aired on Channel 13.

The answer of the Office of the President of Argentina to the facts reported on August 18 by some members of the team of journalists of Periodismo para Todos, who disclosed information allegedly establishing a connection between the Government and money laundering operations, has been to attack the journalists and the member of the media that aired such information. Jorge Lanata, host of that TV show, was described as a “media hit man” and was later on accused by the Secretary General to the President of being a “media murderer” and of hacking official press accounts. Clearly, there are no institutional channels for the Authorities to answer and make official statements without altering the democratic relationship between the Administration and the press.

This is very serious because it is a direct attack against the role of investigative journalism in the democratic system. Journalism contributes to democracy by controlling government actions and disclosing information that may be of interest to citizens. The investigation presented by the journalists and disclosed in the TV show Football para Todos is relevant to society as well as at Court, the Judiciary being the natural controlling instance that will establish the truthfulness of facts and decide on the situation of those accountable in the event of a crime.

Just as we said when we gave our opinion about what had happened on November 22, 2012, when a member of the media filed a report at Court against certain journalists who worked in government media and/or in media supporting the government, accusing them of promoting violence, we cannot accept that journalist Jorge Lanata will be charged with that crime. Important public officials and individuals filing complaints at Court are trying to suggest that the information disclosed in the TV show is undermining the government or promoting violence. The risk of using these arguments is that anybody investigating or reporting on Power may be gagged. We are therefore asking officials to stop questioning investigations carried out by journalists and to make available to the citizens and the Courts, when requested to do so, all public information concerning facts, as part of the Constitutional right of all citizens to access information.

Freedom of expression is a fundamental right recognized in our National Constitution. Its effective enforcement as a means to protect such right has been supported and safeguarded in the extensive Doctrine found in all legal instances in our country.

Thus, the grounds of every democratic system consist in supporting, respecting, guaranteeing and protecting any information published by the press, as well as providing for its legal safeguard. This right is considered a stronghold of the values of democratic life because it gives citizens the possibility of being informed and informing, of knowing, interpreting or giving an opinion freely.

The statement issued by the Office of the President of Argentina is extremely serious because of the concepts expressed and the discrediting terms used in it. As such, it is in line with a series of insults to the free press, attacking the principles governing life in a democracy.

The possibility of counting on media and journalists publishing their investigations constitutes a mechanism providing for legitimate checks and balances from which democratic life benefits. Any attack by one of the three powers against the exercise and the free expression of the press is a dangerous strategy to silence other voices reporting on actions carried out and things done by the Government and its officials. Danger never lies in freedom but rather in its curtailment.

To sum up, in our opinion, the facts mentioned above harm two international principles of freedom of expression recognized in THE DECLARATION ON PRINCIPLES OF FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION of the Inter American Commission on Human Rights.

1. Freedom of expression in all its forms and manifestations is a fundamental and inalienable right of all individuals. Additionally, it is an indispensable requirement for the very existence of a democratic society.”

2. Every person has the right to seek, receive and impart information and opinions freely. (…) All people should be afforded equal opportunities to receive, seek and impart information by any means of communication without any discrimination for reasons of race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinions, national or social origin, economic status, birth or any other social condition.

At Fundación LED (Libertad de Expresión + Democracia) we shall continue reporting, making visible and warning society about actions such as these that affect and do not respect the right of freedom of expression and prevent democracy from being fully effective in our country.