BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Police raided the offices of a cable television company owned by Argentina’s Clarin CLA.BA group on Tuesday, adding fresh fuel to a long-standing feud between the government and the country’s biggest media conglomerate.
Clarin, which owns newspapers, television and radio stations, along with Internet access and cable companies, had an acrimonious falling out with center-left President Cristina Fernandez in 2008, and they have been at odds ever since.
About 50 police officers entered the headquarters of Clarin’s Cablevision to enforce a court order following a complaint over unfair competition by a rival company, Supercanal, a Clarin representative said.
“This company is citing competition issues,” Clarin’s lawyer Damian Cassino said. “This is part of a political battle and (Supercanal) has yielded to the government.”
The Mendoza court also ordered the appointment of a co-administrator for Cablevision, but Cassino said Clarin had lodged a complaint over the raid and that it would also appeal.
No one at Mendoza-based Supercanal could be reached to comment on the legal action, which sent Clarin shares plunging more than 10 percent to a two-year low in afternoon trade in Buenos Aires.
“The raid at Cablevision hit Grupo Clarin, a stock that’s gradually become less and less liquid as a result of tensions between the company and the government,” said Hernan Labrone, an analyst at local brokerage Fenix Compania Financiera.
Clarin’s share price has been battered since the group’s leading daily newspaper and cable news channel criticized Fernandez’s handling of farmer protests soon after she succeeded her late husband as president.
“Clarin Lies” posters appeared across the capital during the farming dispute, the company was stripped of a key operating license and tax inspectors raided the newspaper’s headquarters. Company officials have called it a campaign of harassment.
Defending controversial measures such as a broadcasting reform law, Fernandez says her goal is to break up monopolies as a way to ensure freedom of expression.
This week, the ruling party-controlled Senate is expected to pass a government-sponsored bill that would tighten controls over the country’s only newsprint supplier, Papel Prensa, in which Clarin is the leading shareholder.
The broadcasting reform law, which has been partly blocked by the courts, would have forced media groups including Clarin to sell some of their businesses.
Additional reporting by Walter Bianchi, editing by Gunna Dickson, Dave Zimmerman