Argentine President seizes newspapers' firm

The Government has moved to take over the country's only newsprint maker, alleging that two leading newspapers illegally conspired with dictators to control the company three decades ago and then used it to drive rival media out of business.

President Cristina Fernandez said the courts should decide whether the newspapers, Clarin and La Nacion, should be charged with crimes against humanity, and specifically whether the newsprint company was illegally expropriated by the papers and the military junta.

The companies, with which Ms Fernandez has been feuding for two years, deny any illegality in the acquisition of the newsprint maker, or other crimes. They have accused the President of trying to control the essential material needed to guarantee freedom of expression, a position supported by the Inter-American Press Association and other media groups.

On Tuesday, Ms Fernandez insisted she was defending those rights. She accused Clarin and La Nacion of using the newsprint company, Papel Prensa SA, to impose media monopolies on Argentina and stifling other viewpoints by refusing to sell paper at fair prices to competitors.

Human rights groups, which have a prominent role in the government, accuse La Nacion and Clarin of being conspicuously silent about "dirty war" crimes committed against opponents of the dictatorship.