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The media mogul’s victory lap

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Héctor Magnetto gives his version of events in a new book addressing his tussles with the Kirchners

“We are not THAT important. It is not true that the media have a big influence in the way people vote.”

The person talking is Argentina’s biggest media mogul, Héctor Magnetto of the Clarín Group. The line is on page 125 of a book he has just published to tell his side of the story of the media war that gripped Argentina in the second half of the decade-plus-long Kirchner era.

The page number is most likely a coincidence: 125 is also the number of a government decision of March 2008 that triggered a political bout with the country’s farming sector over export duties. The bitter farming conflict also signalled the start of the government’s war on the mainstream media, best symbolised by the Clarín Group.

Así lo viví. El poder, los medios y la política argentina, published by Planeta, is Magnetto’s official recollection of the fight with the Kirchners. With Mauricio Macri’s electoral victory upset a year ago, Magnetto has largely emerged as a business and political winner and the book amounts to his public victory lap.

One by one, the 72-year-old seeks to dismiss every notion built over the last few years about his management of the Clarín Group and its political motivations. The CEO says that he did not intend to deny possible mistakes or abuses on behalf of the press, but there is actually very little self-criticism throughout the book’s 261 pages of conversation with the sociologist Marcos Novaro.

Although he does not refer to it directly, Magnetto takes issue with a statement made earlier this year by Julio Blanck, one of Clarín’s main political columnists. Blanck said that the organisation had engaged in what he described as “war journalism” during its tussle with the Kirchners.

“It was wartime journalism, and it was bad journalism,” Blanck said in an interview with La Izquierda Diario. “But we were good at war, and we are alive thanks to that.”

Magnetto, on the contrary, says that his company only does professional journalism and that the Kirchner governments hated that. “Journalism has always been our job, and we wanted to continue to do journalism with honesty. We sometimes do well and we also make mistakes, but we do it our way. The Kirchners could never tolerate that,” Magnetto says.

For years, the Kirchner government and its followers painted Magnetto as the dark force behind everything that was allegedly evil in Argentina’s special........

© Buenos Aires Herald