By: Jack Barsch, Koryn Del Prince, Jackson Elliot and Alex Willie
Argentina has a checkered past when it comes to media and entertainment. From being one of the first countries to adopt radio to the mass censorship in the 1990’s, Argentine culture, and the outlets used to broadcast said culture, often clash throughout history. The most famous example of these clashes is the Dirty War.
“During the long military dictatorship, the armed forces put into force a regime of terror for the media. The junta murdered journalists, closed newspapers and censored publications” (Dickinson p. 1 ln.16). Heriberto Muraro described the Dirty War with this quote. This trying time in Argentine history represents a long-standing mistrust of the government, as journalists were persecuted, attacked, and even killed during this period of martial law.
The Dirty War started with Juan Peron. Peron used the military to run the media, essentially creating his own propaganda machine, as well as not giving other political figures access to the media, in order to get himself elected multiple times. In 1957, Juan Peron was successfully overthrown in the third attempt at a military coup, overthrowing the democratic populist government and establishing their own martial law. Resistance quickly formed underneath this military rule, as labor unions and press outlets protested his leadership with strikes and negative press.
After some pressure, the new president (and former general) Eduardo Lonardi and his successor Pedro Aramburu partially restored some democratic rights in the 60’s, but many of his promises were never kept and as such, guerilla groups started the effort to overthrow Aramburu, though many were defeated.
Fast forward to 1976, and after almost 16,000 casualties caused by left-wing terrorism in an effort to bring back the populist regime, the military junta, under Jorge Videla (pictured here), took control.
This sparked the worst of the Dirty War. The press was on lockdown, and anyone threatening the government and their image was immediately stopped and neutralized, either by kidnapping or killing. All in all, the junta were responsible for the arrests, tortures, killings and forced disappearances of an estimated 30,000 people.
It is hard to imagine the oppression that this government created from our relatively free position in the U.S. Since the founding of America, free speech has been guaranteed on an almost unlimited basis. Contrast today’s America with present-day Argentina. While we are gearing up for election season, the worst thing we can imagine are the constant bombardment of ads, whereas Argentina’s election process includes a scandal in which a lead government prosecutor was found dead in his home the day before presenting his case against the government. The effects of the Dirty War still linger today among the Argentine people, as this new scandal shows. The government has yet to earn the trust of their citizens, and given the recent bankruptcy and the prosecutor’s death, their actions seem to kill any goodwill that might have been present. The censorship and abuse has no equal in the United States, and it is one of the best representatives of the problems plaguing South America as a whole. Government corruption and citizen oppression have held the region back, especially in the media sector. Argentina still largely relies on print for news, as it one of the few tendrils of news sources that does not have to clear its content with the government beforehand. In the United States, print is dying as internet journals have proven their ability to deliver the same content in a faster and easier way, largely because they are not bound by anything and are protected by the First Amendment.
Given the fact that our trip happens in the middle of election season in Argentina, we expect to see plenty of different political posters, advertising the different candidates. While it may seem unimportant from our perspective, this was not possible 20-30 years ago for the Argentine public to see. It seems as if there is still some reservation between the media, the public, and the government, as all parties have not fully recovered from the Dirty War. Distrust of the government is still very prevalent, and we are curious if we’ll see this skepticism first hand while in Buenos Aires. However, we feel as if we will be able to learn more about the media in Argentina by simply observing ads around the city, newspaper articles, and if there is a difference in news via internet versus news via print. It will be very interesting to see if we can tell a difference between the two, and on a larger scale a variation between America and Argentina regarding media and news. Another lingering effect of the Dirty War is the topic of the war itself; we don’t think Argentinians will want to talk about that dark spot in their history, and it may still be a very sore subject within certain circles. No matter what the case is, we are very interested in the Argentine media and entertainment market, and given their checkered (and fascinating) past, we expect the present to be just as exciting.
Samples, Tim R. “Of Silence and Defiance: A Case Study of the Argentine Press during the “Proceso” of 1976-1983.” (n.d.): n. pag. Web
Dickinson, Allison. “Remembering Argentina’s Dirty War & Effects on the Press.” Web log post. Sutradhar’s Market. N.p., 10 Apr. 2012. Web. 13 Mar. 2015.