BUENOS AIRES: The head of Argentina’s Supreme Court yesterday denied the government influenced a ruling upholding a controversial law that will force the break-up of the country’s largest media group.
“The court has not made a pact with anyone, it’s the same as always,” Ricardo Lorenzetti told a local radio station, in response to accusations from opposition politicians and media.
After years of wrangling, on Tuesday six of seven justices ruled that the 2009 law was constitutional, upholding an antitrust clause that will force Clarin to sell most of its lucrative cable television operations.
The top judge said that “what we did was validate the activity of Congress, which can also regulate public media and official advertising.”
“It was concretely demonstrated that (the law) creates no impairment for free expression,” he said.
“Last year, they said I was a friend of (Clarin CEO Hector) Magnetto and now it is the other way around,” Lorenzetti joked of his treatment in the press.
Clarin, which also publishes Argentina’s largest circulation newspaper, has said its attorneys are reviewing the court’s decision and has not ruled out filing an appeal.
The ruling hits media outlets “that exercise critical journalism” including those that challenge the government, Clarin said in its statement Tuesday, calling the decision “an affront to freedom of expression.” Opposition lawmaker Elisa Carrio went further, denouncing what she called a “long-standing” and “spurious pact” between the government and the court’s top judge.
She claimed the judge had promised the court would uphold the law in return for the court being allowed to manage its own finances.
Opposition newspaper La Nacion made a similar accusation, alleging the court’s ruling was negotiated “more than three months ago by the president, herself, who is now on medical leave.”
President Cristina Kirchner is convalescing after brain surgery earlier this month. The ruling came two days after mid-term legislative elections.