BUSINESS

Argentina condemns Repsol journalist payoffs

President Fernández de Kirchner claims firm supplied 1.9 million euros a year to media

Argentinean President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner on Thursday condemned oil company YPF for spending 11 million pesos (1.9 million euros) a year on paying off journalists while it was controlled by Spanish firm Repsol.

Following YPF’s nationalization in April, Fernández explained, the new management discovered it had been spending this money on “unconventional advertising” — which is to say unpublished advertisements.

“You’ve seen we have shale gas, which is unconventional?” she commented. “Well, there is also unconventional advertising. [...] What it unconventional advertising? Obviously it is not the kind you see on TV; they are bills that are paid as advertising, but the advertising doesn’t appear. So we also have a new concept: unconventional advertising — you pay it, but it doesn’t appear,” she said.

There is shale gas, which is unconventional? Well, there is also unconventional advertising"

Fernández chose to make the announcement at the inauguration of an oil hydrotreatment plant, a 1.429-billion-peso project (247 million euros) constructed over four years by Repsol-run YPF. The president was clear to point out that the state had contributed 420 million pesos to the project in the form of grants.

YPF under Repsol was not the only organization to make such hidden payments to journalists. Other companies and even public bodies also paid them. To deal with the situation, Fernández proposed the establishment of a “law of public ethics” for journalists, in line with the one that already governs high-ranking civil servants.

The idea has already drawn criticism from sections of the Argentinean media, which have condemned the government for trying to control the press with a rule similar to one proposed in the 1990s by then-President Carlos Menem. Fernández specified the law would serve to get journalists to declare “if they receive money from any company or if they have any political leaning.”

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