Argentina's government began the process of breaking up Grupo Clarín, the country's largest media conglomerate on Monday. The anti-media monopoly law being used against Grupo Clarín was found constitutional by a lower court on Friday and would require the media group to sell off broadcast licenses as well as its majority stake in Cablevision, the cable TV network that has become the company's top revenue driver. Clarín said it would appeal the decision.
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has led the campaign against Grupo Clarín, accusing the group of coup mongering and reporting news biased against her government. But critics claim that by dismantling one of the country's few remaining independent media groups that doesn't rely on state advertising revenue, the government is limiting free speech in Argentina. Martin Sabbatella, the head of the government media regulation body, denied the accusation on Monday, saying free speech isn't at risk.
The government has been at odds with the media group since Clarín criticized President Fernández's handling of a tax on the key agricultural industry and a massive farmers strike in 2008. The case may eventually go before Argentina's Supreme Court.
Two journalists were ordered on Tuesday by Judge Maria Mercedes Portilla of the province of Pichincha to pay a total of $ 2 million to President Rafael Correa, on the grounds that they had caused him “moral damage.” Judge Portilla issued the sentence to journalists Juan Carlos Calderón and Christian Zurita over their book El Gran Hermano, in which they expose the often-obscure circumstances in which the president’s brother, Federico Correa, acquired various government contracts.
Both journalists said in a press conference that they intend to appeal the decision, and that they see this as yet another limitation by the Ecuadorian government on an individual’s right to free speech as well as on the right to free press. According to Zurita, “This is yet another method of punishing the work of journalists; the amount is absurd and irrational.” For his part, Correa’s lawyer defended his client by stating that the sentence shows that both journalists fabricated the information in order to make money.
The journalists’ sentence follows approval of a law on Monday by the Ecuadorian legislature that will limit the press and other media from publishing anything favorable or unfavorable about a candidate 45 days before an election—at any level. These two events constitute a further development in the Ecuadorian government’s efforts to crack down on media, including a referendum last May that curtailed the media and a severe ruling last July against the directors and former opinion editor of El Universo newspaper.
Carlos Fernando Chamorro, a popular Nicaraguan journalist and outspoken critic of President Daniel Ortega, announced this week that he will be leaving Telenica Channel 8 after the station was allegedly sold to relatives of the president. The son of former President Violeta Chamorro (1990-1997) and martyred newspaper editor Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, he hosts a nightly news show, Esta Noche, and a weekly program, Esta Semana.
On Sunday, during his last taping of Esta Semana, he explained his departure: “The continuance of the programs Esta Semana and Esta Noche would validate his history of abuses against the freedom of expression during his presidency… my continuance at this channel would create the image of tolerance that the regime has never had nor will ever have toward independent media in this country.” Esta Semana, which first aired in 1994, had been on Channel 8 since 2005. Esta Noche had aired since 2006.
Nicaraguan media has reported that Carlos Briceño, the station’s previous owner, sold Channel 8 for $10 million.