IAPA calls for tax on press to be lifted
(IAPA/IFEX) - The following is an IAPA press release:
IAPA URGES LIFTING OF TAX ON PRESS IN ARGENTINA
MIAMI, Florida (May 1, 2001) -- The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today described a new sales tax on newspapers, magazines and periodicals in Argentina as regressive, discriminatory, and contrary to freedom of the press and the right to information. The organization called on President Fernando de la Rúa to veto imposition of the tax, called for recently by his economy minister.
In a letter to the Argentine head of state, IAPA President Danilo Arbilla, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, news weekly Búsqueda, called the planned 21% value-added tax a direct penalty on the public and an affront to the major contribution that print media makes to democracy through the diversity, plurality and independence of news they provide.
Arbilla stressed that the IAPA was not asking for any special privileges for the Argentine press, as the press is already subject to payment of valued-added tax on the advertising it carries and on the newsprint it uses.
Following is the full text of the letter:
"We appeal to you not to proceed with the decision recently taken by Economy Minister Domingo Cavallo on the application of a value-added tax on the sale of newspapers, magazines and periodicals, as we regard this an attack on press freedom and the public's right to information, harming the plurality of news and thus becoming a tax levied on the very essence of democracy, given that many small and medium-sized media will find it difficult to survive.
We are surprised by this action, Mr. President, because we have on numerous occasions communicated to you our pleasure at your commitment - expressed at our General Assembly in Santiago, Chile, in October 2000 - that no action of this kind would be taken, it being understood that additional taxation would become an insupportable charge on the print media and a tax on popular culture, thus curtailing the people's right to control the work of their representatives through free information.
At our recent meeting in Fortaleza, Brazil, in March we confirmed to you that our position is not based on seeking any kind of privileges for the print media, given that the Argentine press already provides its VAT contributions for the newsprint it consumes and on the advertising it carries.
We regard this additional tax as discriminatory and regressive, in that firstly it is not applied to other communications media and secondly it will hang like Damocles' sword over those media that, despite their financial difficulties, are making extraordinary efforts to be able to continue publishing every day, thus providing a major contribution in terms of diversity, plurality and independence in the provision of news - essential values for the development of persons and communities in a democratic society. Among such efforts, Mr. President, you will have observed how many newspapers and magazines in your country have had to reduce their cover price in order to be able to remain in full contact with their readers, while at the same time seeing a sharp reduction in their advertising revenues.
We view this discriminatory VAT imposition as a penalty on the print media, a matter expressed in a number of articles of the Declaration of Chapultepec, which states that both discrimination against the media and administrative and economic policies affecting their circulation conspire against press freedom. Moreover, with this new tax Argentina would have the doubtful honor of being the country with the highest taxation on the circulation of newspapers, magazines and periodicals.
The consequences of this measure being applied to the print media may be incalculable, Mr. President. Its weakening surely will be prejudicial for the free flow of ideas, thus also contravening what is enshrined in Article 13, Paragraph 3 of the American Convention on Human Rights, which declares that "the right of expression may not be restricted by indirect methods or means ... tending to impede the communication and circulation of ideas and opinions."
There is no doubt that we are dealing here with a tax which, beyond being a levy on the print media, is linked to the people's right to be informed. It is the citizen who is being directly penalized and thus is having his or her ability to make judgments in a democratic system affected. In effect, this means that this is "an indirect pressure aimed at silencing news reporting" and "incompatible with freedom of expression," as Article 13 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression, recently adopted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, warns.
Invoking these arguments, based on the principles of free speech and press freedom, on constitutional provisions, international human rights law and, especially, on your own commitment to a free press, we ask you to take the necessary action such that this new tax be looked at again and not put into effect."