Digital edition overcomes press blockade in Argentina

byIsaac Itman
Mar 30, 2011 in Journalism Basics

Protesters halted distribution of the print edition of Argentina daily Clarín, but hundreds of thousands of readers accessed the newspaper’s content from its website setting a new record.

Every Sunday, Clarín sells about 600,000 copies from kiosks and other vendors, according to the Circulation Verifier Institute.

Protesters prevented those copies from reaching newsstands on March 27, but the attack on the free circulation of information couldn't touch the web: the daily’s website received about 945,000 unique visits, 250,000 more than usual, according to numbers released by the paper. Some 759,000 readers also downloaded a PDF version of the sequestered print edition.

The trouble started on March 27 when dozens of people, allegedly linked to a graphic design firm owned by parent company Grupo Clarín, prevented trucks loaded with the print edition from leaving a factory in Buenos Aires’ Barracas neighborhood.

The blockade, reportedly organized by workers who were fired from the graphics company, lasted about 12 hours. To a lesser extent, the protest also hit a nearby printing factory from where daily La Nación, one of the country’s main newspapers, distributes its print edition. The blockade there held for about two hours.

This is the latest skirmish between Grupo Clarín and the government. Finance Director Alejandro Urricelqui told Dow Jones that 2010 was a "challenging" year for the company because of ongoing disputes between the media giant and the government of President Cristina Fernandez, which has accused Grupo Clarín of trying to topple her administration through biased reporting.

The government's laissez-faire stance on the protests led to accusations of an attack on free speech but Employment Minister Carlos Tomada told the Associated Press that the matter is "just a union dispute that has nothing to do with freedom of the press."

Either way, the record numbers are a small victory for the power of the digital press. Small, in part, because in a country of about 40 million people, just 4.6 million homes have Internet access, according to the National Institute of Statistics (INDEC).

Print media is still an essential tool to inform millions of citizens who cannot access the information superhighway.

Photo by Pulpolux, Creative Commons Attribution License

A version of this article first appeared in IJNet’s Spanish edition.