Fernández’s animosity towards Clarín is legion. Her government wants judges to reject Clarín’s protests that a three-year-old media law that would strip the market-leader of scores of licences is unconstitutional, and to apply the anti-monopoly law pronto.
Critics say she is motivated less by a desire for plurality and independence than by a fierce desire to cut Clarín, an implacable government opponent, down to size.
But what has El País done to deserve the presidential wrath? It published a photograph purporting to be Hugo Chávez, the ailing Venezuelan leader, tubed in hospital, on its website for half an hour before realising it was fake and pulling it.
To err may be human, but media organisations, it appears in Fernández’s book, never act innocently. Via Twitter, the president furiously recounted how she read the papers as usual over breakfast, and found on the front page of El País “a photo. No, let me correct that. This is not a photo. This is a dirty trick”.
She thundered on in similar vein for several tweets, berating the “guttersnipe press – the same everywhere”, questioning whether the editor responsible for the photo’s publication “walks around Madrid like normal men and women”, had children, ever wrote about press freedom, or penned “editorials about ethics, morality, good behaviour” and wondering who the next “victim” would be.
El País, she says, is as bad as the corruption-hit The Sun in England and, of course, “here is the ‘Clarín’ of Héctor Magnetto”, referring to the Argentine group’s chief.
Tarring any media group with the same brush as Clarín is about as damning as it gets in the Fernández lexicon.
Compare her recent gushing tweets from Vietnam, where she hailed Ho Chi Minh as a liberation hero of Vietnam, and said her meetings with the president were “excellent”. Mind you, Vietnam does not set too much store by press freedom, as Human Rights Watch points out here.
This weekend’s summit between EU and Latin American leaders in Santiago should give Latin leaders plenty of chance to show their solidarity with Chávez. But his return to the political scene in Venezuela looks unlikely and what happens next remains open.