New police protocol threatens right to protest
On 18th February, the Homeland Security Council approved a protocol to regulate how security forces operate during public demonstrations. The protocol was criticised by a local human rights organisation as 'it does not explicitly prohibit the use of firearms or rubber bullets to disperse crowds' and 'gives the security forces broad powers to repress and criminalise social protests.'
Research shows that in 2016 Argentina is witnessing hundreds of demonstrations a month. Research by the Diagnóstico Político consultancy firm, revealed that there were 512 demonstrations in February, 626 street blockades in April and 465 pickets across the country in June.
Several civil society networks are calling for reforms to the rules governing associations in Argentina and have recently met with authorities to discuss this issue. A 2015 report from the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law concluded that onerous legal procedures and increased bureaucratic demands make the registration of civil society organisations a difficult and very expensive process in Argentina.
Recent changes to Argentina's Media Law have drawn criticism from civil society. The new government that took office in December 2015 immediately issued an emergency presidential decree, removing the cap on the number of media outlets one company can control. The government also merged two regulatory bodies and housed the new entity in the Communications Ministry. Both measures, which were the subject of a public hearing at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in April, were criticised by civil society as infringing on freedom of expression. CSOs claim the changes create a regulatory institution dependent on the the Executive, thus undermining its independence. The state justified the need for the changes, stating that they sought to address free expression violations during the previous administration and were necessary to take account of the speed of technological change.
On 18th May, the House of Representatives almost unanimously passed the Law on Access to Public Information. The initiative now heads to the Senate for final approval and, if enacted, would take effect a year after its publication in the Official Gazette. Although not perfect, the law is considered to meet international standards and applies to all three branches of government, publicly owned companies, universities, and the Central Bank of Argentina, among others institutions.
On 4th July, the offices of newspaper Tiempo Argentino and radio station Radio América were vandalised. According to workers, the intruders destroyed important information with the clear objective of preventing the publication of the newspaper.