POLAND AND ARGENTINA
TRY TO GAIN MORE LATITUDE TO CONTROL THEIR
JUDICIAL SYSTEM AS WELL AS THE MEDIA
Just days after taking controversial measures to gain more control of their respective Judicial System, as GeopoliticalAnalysis and Monitoring pointed out in a recent published article,
the two newly elected conservative far right leaning governments did not hesitate taking controversial measures in order to adapt their respective Media Laws, giving them more latitude to control their media
For newly elected neo liberal - hard line conservative President MAURICIO MACRI the controversial move against the media watchdog was instigated due to the fact that the country’s largest as well as controversial media group, the “CLARIN GROUP” directly as well as indirectly financed MACRI’S election campaign, thus for MACRI it now is payback time. By taking control of the AFSCA media watchdog by means of decree, the new government would leave the CLARÍN GROUP — the country’s largest media conglomerate — with dozens of excess radio and TV licenses over and above the current limit of 24 licenses nationwide.
Unlike in POLAND, where the EUROPEAN UNION’S - OSCE - Organization for Security and Co-operation in EUROPE has expressed deep concerns, stressing that media freedom and pluralism is crucial to the functioning of the EU, such monitoring systems unfortunately do not exist in ARGENTINA thus jeopardizing democratic values.
IS ARGENTINA PIVOTING TOWARDS AUTOCRACY?
ANALYSTS AGREE MOVE TO TAKE CONTROL OF AFSCA BY DECREE HURTS DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS
Via Buenos Aires Herald
President MAURICIO MACRI’S decision to place the AFSCA media watchdog under trusteeship is the wrong approach to deal with a poorly run department, communications and media specialists told the Herald hours after the publication of the controversial decree.
“They say they want to examine alleged administrative irregularities, but you cannot place a department under trusteeship only to then try to find out whether there’s something going on,” GUILLERMO MASTRINI, a communications professor at the BUENOS AIRES and QUILMES universities, told the Herald.
“There are clear legal mechanisms to remove (AFSCA chief Martín) SABBATELLA from his post — but the government is not using them,” he added.
MACRI’S legal offensive is contradictory with the 2009 Broadcast Media Law, a legislation passed with broad majority in both houses of Congress and praised by international organizations. But the experts say the administration of former president CRISTINA FERNÁNDEZ DE KIRCHNER also bears some blame for the arbitrary way in which it dealt with several key aspects of the regulation.
“The law has been sparsely — and poorly — implemented and that created the conditions for this new government to say they want to change it,” media expert SANTIAGO MARINO told the Herald.
Whatever the blame, experts largely agreed the decree issued yesterday is bad for democratic institutions.
“We went from a constitutional law that was given the OK by the three branches of government, to a mere decree establishing a trusteeship,” MARINO said.
MACRI’S LET’S CHANGE coalition does not have a majority of its own in either chamber of Congress.
THE FUTURE OF CLARÍN
The trusteeship imposed gives MACRI broad powers when it comes to the implementation of communication policies. This includes deciding on the fate of large media conglomerates currently violating the anti-trust mandates of the law.
Concretely, the move allows the Let’s Change government to review decisions made by AFSCA regarding the adjustment plans that were filed by media groups.
Should Communications Minister OSCAR AGUAD and AFSCA trustee AGUSTÍN GARZÓN (a former PRO party lawmaker) want to pursue a laissez-faire policy of letting anti-trust regulation fall to the wayside the new government would leave the CLARÍN GROUP — the country’s largest media conglomerate — with dozens of excess radio and TV licences over and above the current limit of 24 licences nationwide.
The AFSCA board of directors that was put on hold by MACRI’S decree claimed it had control over 237 licences, while the conglomerate claims it has a total of 158.
Media specialist MARTÍN BECERRA sees the trusteeship as sign of a bigger trend.
“Some pro-MACRI intellectuals are now bringing the old myth of free enterprise as a synonym of freedom of expression back from the dead,” Becerra wrote in a blog post yesterday. “By doing that, they contradict more than 70 years of international jurisprudence on the issue, while at the same time they play down the role played by media in the formation of public opinion ... and use the excuse of ‘triple-play’ as a shortcut to overcome ‘state intervention’ through laissez-faire policies.”
CLARÍN, the country’s largest media conglomerate, proposed to divide itself into six different business unit shortly after the Supreme Court confirmed, in a landmark 2013 ruling, the constitutionality of the Media Law. AFSCA’s board of directors unanimously approved that plan, but in October, 2014, SABBATELLA accused the company of fraud and announced it will move forward with the forced divestment of the company’s excess licences. That move was quickly challenged and is now stalled in the courts.
THE MEDIA GIANT’S CHALLENGE WAS HARDLY THE ONLY ONE FACED BY AFSCA WHEN MACRI TOOK OFFICE.
The adjustment plan filed by SPANISH GIANT TELEFÓNICA was okayed last year by the media watchdog, that accepted the much-maligned argument that broadcast TV channel TELEFE is not directly owned by the local unit of the firm and therefore should not be forced to change hands to comply with the law.
Similar presentations made by dissident Peronist leader ALBERTO PIERRI and MEDIA GROUPS PRISA, VILA-MANZANO and ÍNDALO were also approved by SABBATELLA.
A HIDDEN AGENDA - THOSE WHO WERE CALLING TO BOOST DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS ARE NOW DEMANDING EXCEPTIONS
Last night, the CENTRE FOR LEGAL AND SOCIAL STUDIES (CELS) led by journalist HORACIO VERBITSKY said that what the previous administration did, and its eventual failure to implement the law in an equitable fashion, does not allow the new administration to go against the main tenants of the law.
“Delays or problems with the implementation of the Broadcast Media Law require measures to boost its application, not an undemocratic change of goals and principles,” CELS said.
On the other hand, little has been said by the new administration about the distribution of 33 percent of the frequencies to community radio and TV stations set by the current law, suggesting that aspect of the need for freedom of expression is not a priority.
For Becerra, the decree could have reverberations beyond the issue at stake.
“It sets a precedent because (MACRI’S) successors could do exactly the same thing with measures that are now being adopted by MACRI, hurting the very concept of a state policy,” he concluded. “It’s notable that those who were calling to boost democratic institutions are now demanding exceptions.”
By JAN CIENSKI
POLAND’S parliament adopted a new media law that gives the conservative government more latitude to control state-run television and radio.
DOMESTIC AND INTERNATIONAL CONCERNS GROW OVER LAW AND JUSTICE POLICIES
The law on “national media” is the latest in a series of legislative efforts by the newly elected LAW AND JUSTICE PARTY (PiS) government to take control of a wide array of state institutions, something that’s creating a growing, but so far ineffective, domestic and international push-back.
|President ANDRZEJ DUDA|
Because PiS commands an absolute majority in parliament, the bills have been speedily approved. The opposition has been unable to stop the PiS legislation, but international institutions are starting to voice their concerns.
FRANS TIMMERMANS, first vice president of the EUROPEAN COMMISSION, sent a letter to POLAND’S foreign and justice ministers stressing that media freedom and pluralism is crucial to the functioning of the EU. The OSCE - ORGANIZATION FOR SECURITY AND CO-OPERATION IN EUROPE expressed “deep concern” about the media bill.
“I fear the hastily introduced changes will endanger the basic conditions of independence, objectivity and impartiality of public service broadcasters,” DUNJA MIJATOVIĆ, the OSCE’s representative on freedom of the media, said in a statement. Her concern was echoed by groups such as REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS and the ASSOCIATION OF EUROPEAN JOURNALISTS.
The law, which would come into effect immediately after being signed by President ANDRZEJ DUDA, would allow the treasury minister to swiftly replace senior public broadcast officials.
“The public media are ignoring their mission towards the nation,” ELŻBIETA KRUK, a PiS MP, said in parliament. “Instead of creating a media shield for the POLISH national interest, journalists often sympathize with negative opinions about POLAND.”
In the quarter century since the end of communism, POLAND has been unable to create apolitical public media, and there is something of a tradition of new governments putting their loyalists into top jobs — it’s just that Law and Justice’s moves are faster and blunter than their predecessors.
RAPID CHANGES – MIRROR IMAGE OF MACRI’S “LETS CHANGE” PARTY
Parliament also passed a bill restructuring the civil service by scrapping the requirement that senior jobs be put out to tender, which critics say will allow the government to put its loyalists into key bureaucratic posts.
The legislature also started debate on a police bill, which gives police and security agencies more power to snoop on citizens’ email, social media and other forms of communications — a measure the government argues increases public safety. However, the HELSINKI FOUNDATION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS warned the legislation may violate the EU’s data protection regulations.
That’s only a part of the growing resistance faced by Law and Justice. The party’s moves have already brought thousands of demonstrators onto POLISH streets in December, and members of the EUROPEAN COMMISSION and other institutions have expressed concern about the country’s direction — although none of that has stopped PiS from acting.
JUDICIAL CHALLENGE – ONCE AGAIN A MIRROR IMAGE TO ARGENTINA
A bill signed into law by DUDA hobbling the CONSTITUTIONAL TRIBUNAL, the country’s top constitutional court, is now going to be examined by the same tribunal to see if it violates the constitution. The legislation was called a violation of “the division of powers and the principles of the rule of law” by the head of POLAND’S Supreme Court. An earlier missive from TIMMERMANS on that issue was ignored.
JAROSŁAW KACZYŃSKI, the leader of PiS and POLAND’S most powerful politician, told the ULTRA-CATHOLIC RADIO MARYJA that the tribunal was leading a ”rebellion” against the “good changes” his party wants to bring about.
Concern is also rising abroad. Although the U.S. State Department was careful to say it considers POLAND a close NATO ally and a democratic state, spokesman MARK TONER said WASHINGTON had been in touch with WARSAW about the tribunal. (Interesting, why was WASHINGTON not in touch with BUENOS AIRES on same topic?)
“We have raised questions with the government about legislative actions with regard to the CONSTITUTIONAL TRIBUNAL,” he told reporters. “I think a system of checks and balances and judicial independence are crucial elements of constitutional democracy and the rule of law.”
There are also problems on other fronts. SLOVAKIA’S Defense Minister MARTIN GLVÁČ sent a sharply worded letter to his POLISH counterpart, ANTONI MACIEREWICZ, about efforts to remove the head of a joint counter-intelligence center.
MACIEREWICZ’S chief of staff, backed by military police, staged a late-night raid on the center on December 18 to remove the officer in charge, saying he had lost his security clearance. The officer, Colonel KRZYSZTOF DUSZA, maintained he could only be removed on the joint authority of the SLOVAK and POLISH defense ministers, as the counter-intelligence center, which is affiliated with NATO, includes 10 countries.
“I appeal to you to stop all non-standard actions,” GLVÁČ wrote to MACIEREWICZ in a pre-Christmas letter obtained by POLAND’S RADIO ZET and confirmed by the SLOVAK defense ministry. He pointed out that the center isn’t part of the POLISH ministry and denied POLISH assertions (by MACIEREWICZ, among others) that the SLOVAKS had been consulted before the unconventional efforts to remove Colonel DUSZA.