Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Argentine Media Group Clarin Wins Reprieve Over Asset Break-up

Argentina’s biggest media group, Clarin, has won a reprieve from the government’s attempts to break up its holdings for the second time in two weeks.

On Tuesday morning, Federal Judge Horacio Alfonso accepted Clarin's request to appeal his decision on Friday that a controversial law limiting concentration of ownership in the media was constitutional.

The government reacted to the ruling by sending officials to Clarin’s headquarters on Monday with a public notary to notify the group that a transfer of licences and sale of assets must begin immediately.

However, Clarin had already lodged an appeal, which means the case will once again pass to the appeals court that granted the group its first reprieve in early December.

Clarin is by and far and away the biggest and most powerful media conglomerate in Argentina. The government claims the law is designed to promote media plurality, while Clarin say it is being used as a political tool to silence its most ardent and powerful critic - Clarin.

According to the government, Clarin has 237 media licences, while the law only permits one company to own 24 cable licenses and 10 free-to-air licenses for radio and TV, and to cover no more than 35 percent of the pay-per-view population.

Clarin says it has seven radio licenses and four open-TV ones but its TV cable operator Cablevision owns 158 local licenses and the law’s 24 licence limit would restrict their market.

News Briefs
  • Uruguayan President Jose Mujica has asked legislators to “put the brakes” on plans to legalize and regulate cannabis sales after a national opinion showed over 60% of Uruguayans opposed the plans, the BBC reports. Mujica is proposing to stall the plans until he can win skeptics over through a public debate.
  • Government sources say Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is suffering from a respiratory infection after undergoing cancer surgery in Cuba and must have "complete rest," the Miami Herald reports.
  • The BBC reports on Chilean journalists investigating human rights abuses from the Pinochet era, who have been victims of break ins and threats. One journalist says says his house has been broken into three times over the past days and research about crimes carried out under General Augusto Pinochet taken.
  • Mexico’s new Attorney General claims there are over 80 small and medium sized drug trafficking organizations operating in the country - a figure far higher than the previous governments estimate, the AP reports. New President Enrique Peña Nieto said the proliferation of these smaller organizations has been fueled by the fracturing of bigger organizations such as the Zetas and the Familia Michoacana.
  • The New York Times reports from Oaxaca, Mexico where a team of 20 police-trained deaf people have been recruited to monitor the city’s new CCTV surveillance system. Police looked to recruit deaf people for their lip-reading skills and because “their heightened visual attention had enabled the deaf officers to see trouble developing on the screens faster than other officers who can hear and speak but are frequently distracted by the buzzing of phones, police scanners and chatter in the command center.”
  • The AP reports on the case of Jacob Ostreicher, a 53-year-old American who has just been released to house arrest by a Bolivian judge after spending 18 months in prison without charge. Ostriecher is accused of money laundering but, according to the AP, there is strong evidence he was “fleeced and extorted by corrupt prosecutors.”
  • 17 people were killed in an attempted prison break at Durango, Mexico, the AP reports. After guards tried to stop inmates climbing the back prison wall a firefight ensued, which left 11 inmates and 6 guards dead. 
  • The Washington Post profiles Katia Abreu, a politician and landowner, who is a fierce advocate for the large-scale agribusiness that has helped drive Brazil’s economic growth but is heavily criticized by environmentalists, who Abreu dismisses as “‘ideologically committed’ foes dedicated to seeing Brazilian agriculture founder.”
  • The Guardian looks at economic growth in Mexico and in particular, Tijuana, which has become a hub for manufacturing high-tech goods such as flat screen TVs. The improving economy has led to strong consumer confidence, even though there has been little “trickle-down effect” and half the population remain below the poverty line.
  • The LA Times reports from Mexico’s Yucutan peninsula, where locals are marking the end of the 13th Baktun Mayan long count by celebrating their Mayan culture and history, “mak[ing] mystically minded calls for renewal and rebirth” and trying to boost tourism. Few, if any, are preparing for the apocalypse.