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Argentina: Reactions and Analysis of Blockade of Newspapers Clarín and La Nación

The Clarín newspaper – photo: Laura Schneider

On Sunday the 27th of March, Argentina awoke to some big news: The daily Clarín [es] could not distribute their newspapers in Buenos Aires due to a blockade at their printing plant. La Nación [es] also suffered a blockade, though theirs was shorter than Clarín’s, which lasted 12 hours.

It is important to note that this is not the first time Clarín has been blockaded, but no previous blockade has lasted long enough to prevent distribution of the newspaper to a large part of the population.

At the time of writing this post, it is still not known who is responsible for this action, as the blog Algo habré dicho [es] (I must have said something) explains:

Ayer veíamos las imágenes en TN (no había mucha más cobertura, era puro fútbol o Los Simpsons) sobre el bloqueo a la planta y nos preguntábamos si el televidente pensaría: “che, por qué es el bloqueo? por qué no enfocan una bandera, a ver que dicen…? por qué no entrevistan a alguno de los que bloquean?”

Yesterday we were watching the images on TN [es] (there wasn’t much more coverage, it was all football or the Simpsons) on the blockade at the plant and wondered whether the viewers would think: “dude, why the blockade? why don’t they show one of the banners, to see what they say…? why don’t they interview one of the blockaders?”

Nevertheless, Argentinian bloggers are attributing the blockade to various sectors, like, for example, Pepe in the blog Viñetas [es]:

El reciente bloqueo al diario CLARIN es la frutilla del postre de una serie de hechos e indicios evidentes, que marcan la inclinación autoritaria del gobierno de Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

The recent blockade of the newspaper CLARIN is the icing on the cake of a series of events and clear signs marking the authoritarian tendencies of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s government.

Damian in the blog Perspectivas Críticas siglo XXI [es] (21st Century Critical Perspectives) analyses blockades carried out previously on the same newspaper, specifically by the union leader Hugo Moyano, Vice-President of the Justicialist Party of Buenos Aires Province and Secretary-General of the Argentinian General Confederation of Labour:

No es la primera vez que Moyano bloquea diarios, a fines del 2010 lo había hecho también en las plantas de Clarín y La Nación. También ha bloqueado a otros medios críticos como Perfil.

It is not the first time that Moyano has blockaded newspapers, at the end of 2010 he did it to Clarín’s and La Nación’s plants. He has also blockaded other critical media such as Perfil.

In the blog Cadena de Palabras [es] (Chain of Words), Laura Cambra looks beyond who may or may not be responsible, bearing in mind the electoral campaign which has already begun in Argentina for the 2011 presidential elections:

¿Por qué el gobierno calla? Porque, aunque quiera, no puede enfrentarse a Moyano……..¿Por qué la oposición calla? Porque sería poner a CFK (Cristina Fernández de Kirchner) en posición de víctima y, por lo tanto, elevar la percepción positiva que de ella tiene el electorado………¿Por qué Clarín también calla? Porque aprovecha para victimizarse. Luego de tantos ataques, es lo que mejor sabe hacer para obtener adhesiones y no deja pasar la oportunidad de ponerse en el centro de una pelea que, en este caso, no es suya.

Why is the government keeping quiet? Because, although it may want to, it cannot confront Moyano… Why is the opposition keeping quiet? Because this would mean putting CFK (Cristina Fernández de Kirchner) in the position of the victim, and thus increasing the positive perception that the electorate has of her… Why is Clarín keeping quiet? Because they want to play the victim. After so many attacks, this is what they do best in order to increase subscriptions, and they don't miss the opportunity to place themselves at the centre of a fight which, in this case, is not theirs.

Some believe that it was all a show, like the blog Notero de a pie [es] (Street reporter):

Bastó un nuevo bloqueo en las puertas de sus distribuidoras para que el hombre montara un show de victimización de muy poca monta, muy barato….

A new blockade at the entrance to his distributors was all the man needed to set up a petty, cheap show of victimisation…

However, not all bloggers are looking for those responsible for the action itself, but are instead carrying out an analysis that goes beyond what happened, like Fernando Santillan in his blog 7:50 a Retiro [es]:

El hecho es más grave porque se trata del bloqueo a dos diarios. A quienes no somos periodistas ni dueños de medios, decir que éstos merecen un tratamiento especial puede resultar por momentos molesto. Sabemos que hay casos en los que, bajo el manto de la libertad de prensa, se han cometido errores e injusticias. Pero en este caso como en pocos más, es claro que siempre hay que errar por el lado de la libertad: porque la libertad de prensa es una garantía para la vigencia de otros derechos.

The event is more serious because it concerns the blockading of two newspapers. For those of us who are not journalists or newspaper owners, saying that these people deserve special treatment can at times be troublesome. We know there are cases in which, in the name of freedom of the press, they have made mistakes and caused injustices. But in this case, as in few others, it is clear that we must always err on the side of freedom: because freedom of the press is a guarantee of the enforcement of other rights.

The news has taken on various dimensions, and on Sunday the 27th, the Argentinian Federation of Press Workers [es] published a communiqué  on their website:

Fieles a su costumbre, los medios que integran el grupo Clarín pretenden inventar una realidad que no existe. Como si se pudiera mutar de victimarios a víctimas a partir de la ficción que el monopolio crea.

Los compañeros que son perseguidos en Artes Gráficas Rioplatenses (AGR) -perteneciente al Grupo Clarín- protestan, junto a sus familias, frente a la planta de impresión de la empresa en reclamo ante la persecución sindical que sufren los delegados. Ésa es la noticia del día.

True to form, the media outlets that make up the Clarín group intend to invent a reality that does not exist. As if they could transform themselves from perpetrators into victims through the fiction that their monopoly creates.

Those who are being persecuted in Artes Gráficas Rioplatenses (AGR, Graphic Arts of the River Plate region) -which belongs to the Clarín Group- are protesting, with their families, outside the printing plant of the company, which is under complaint for the violation of union rights that their representatives have suffered. This is the news of the day.

Meanwhile, the 28th of March edition of Clarín came out with a blank front page.

Front page of the the daily Clarín on the 28th of March 2011 – photo: Laura Schneider

In summary, whether it was an attack on free expression or a union protest is still unknown, nor is it known who initiated the blockade. The blog Otra Noticia Mas [es] (Another News Story) analyses what happened so that readers can draw their own conclusions:

Cuando algo se quiere analizar realmente las preguntas para hacerse son: ¿A quién perjudica?, ¿A quién favorece? Al menos para empezar. En estos puntos creo estar en desacuerdo con muchos, no creo particularmente por la información que yo (simple ciudadano) puedo manejar, pero digo, esto. ¿A Clarín lo favorece? Creo que no porque saltan cosas que tal vez para ellos serían mejor que estén tapadas. ¿A Clarín lo perjudica? Quiero decir, le afecta económicamente? No lo creo, no al menos por un día, si fueran varios es otra cosa, pero un día lo pueden bancar. Aunque tendríamos que tener en cuenta que contra Clarín no es solo esta vez la que se le han hecho cosas similares que afecten su negocio con lo cual si lo prolongamos en el tiempo tal vez la respuesta sea sí.

Al oficialismo lo favorece? A mi modo de ver, no, porque mucha gente que está de acuerdo con ellos les puede parecer que si bien Clarín no les agrada, no es la forma.¿Al Oficialismo lo perjudica? Creo que aunque más no sea de costado sí.Entonces habiendo tantas dudas, por mi parte lo que voy a hacer es: buscar a otros que tal vez parecen estar más afuera del círculo que pueden salir beneficiados, mi abuelito decía, a rio revuelto ganancia de pescadores.

When you really want to analyse something, the questions to ask yourself are: Who does it harm? Who does it benefit? At least to start with. On these matters I think I disagree with many, I do not think it is due to the information that I (a mere citizen) have access to, but this is what I say. Does it benefit Clarín? I don’t think so, because it brings out into the open things that they might prefer to keep hidden. Does it harm Clarín? That is, does it affect them economically? I don’t think so, at least not for one day. If it were several days it would be another matter, but one day they can deal with. Although we should bear in mind that this is not the only time that Clarín has been subject to similar actions that affect their business, so if we were to prolong it perhaps the answer would be yes.

Does it benefit the government? I would say no, because many people who agree with them might think that, even if they don’t like Clarín, this is not the way to deal with them. Does it harm the government? I think that it does, if only indirectly. So with so many uncertainties, what I am going to do is: look for others who might appear further from the centre of things who could end up benefiting. As my grandpa used to say, troubled waters, fisherman’s gain.

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