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Argentina alleges newspapers worked with dictatorship

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • A report alleges that Argentina's largest newspapers illegally obtained shares of Papel Prensa
  • Papel Prensa is the country's largest newsprint producer
  • The papers worked with the dictatorship at the time to gain the shares, the report says

(CNN) -- An Argentine government report released Tuesday alleges that two of the country's largest newspapers, Clarin and La Nacion, resorted to human rights violations against the owners of a paper company in what was an illegal appropriation of its shares.

Founded in 1972, Papel Prensa is the main manufacturer of newsprint in Argentina and is owned by Clarin, La Nacion, and the government.

The report alleges that the two newspaper conglomerates colluded with Argentina's dictatorship in 1976 to force the sale of the shares through torture and threats.

Both newspapers have denied the claims, and say the shares of Papel Prensa were bought legally.

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner presented the 233-page report herself.

The government will present the findings of the report to the judiciary to see if criminal charges will be brought against the papers. She also accused Clarin, which owns 49 percent of Papel Prensa, of managing a monopoly that put some competitors out of business and kept other newspapers from emerging in Argentina.

The government is the second largest stakeholder in the company, with more than 27 percent of the shares. La Nacion owns 23 percent of the company.

The report comes amid tensions between the government and the media, particularly Clarin. Clarin has been highly critical of the leadership of Fernandez and her husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner.

Last year, Fernandez spearheaded a controversial audio-visual communication policy that critics said was aimed at hobbling the holdings of Clarin, which also has business interests in cable, television and radio.

In a recent editorial, Clarin accused the government of trying to gain control over Papel Prensa in order to control the print media in the country. Fernandez agreed that whoever controls the company controls the print media, but said that Clarin has abused that power.

The president announced that she would send a proposal to congress to create a commission that would regulate the production of newsprint "as a public interest" to make its access more equitable among publishers.

Among the evidence that Fernandez cited was the price the then-owner of Papel Prensa, Linda Graiver, sold the company for.

According to the report, Graiver sold it for just under $1 million, when records show the firm was worth between $2.3 million and $4 million. In the end, Fernandez said, Graiver was paid only $7,000 before she was detained by elements of the dictatorship.

"When you read this, you feel you are reading a thriller, an Argentine thriller," Fernandez said.