Uruguay's long tradition of freedom of the press was severely curtailed during the twelve years of military dictatorship, especially its final years under Lieutenant General Gregorio Alvarez Armelino (1981-85). During his administration, more than thirty news organizations, including radio stations, publications, and television stations, were closed. On his first day in office in March 1985, Sanguinetti reestablished complete freedom of the press. His government also abrogated a regulation that compelled all international news agencies to supply a copy of all disseminated political news to the Ministry of the Interior.
Although newspapers have played an important role in the evolution of Uruguayan party politics, they were generally affiliated with and dependent on one or the other of the traditional parties. This combination of party dependence before the military regime and censorship during it prevented the press and the media in general from developing into a Fourth Estate. After freedom of the press was restored in 1985, however, Montevideo's newspapers (which accounted for all of Uruguay's principal daily newspapers) greatly expanded their circulations and presumably increased their influence. Most of the twenty-five to thirty interior newspapers were biweekly, except for a couple of regional dailies.
Well over 100 periodicals were published in Uruguay. Búsqueda (Search) was Uruguay's most important weekly news magazine. Founded in 1971, Búsqueda had close links to civilian economic officials in the Sanguinetti and Lacalle governments and served as an important forum for political and economic analysis. A right-of-center, independent publication, Búsqueda had a liberal editorial policy that espoused free markets, free trade, and private enterprise and competition. Although it sold only about 16,000 copies a week, its estimated readership exceeded 50,000. The educational economic status of its readers placed them among the top 3 or 4 percent of the population.
Other periodicals included the PDC's Aquí, a weekly founded in late 1984; the monthly Cuadernos de marcha, founded in 1985 by Carlos Quijano--who founded the former weekly procommunist newspaper Marcha in 1939--and associated with the Broad Front; Zeta, a weekly founded in 1986 and affiliated with the PGP; and Maté amargo, a fortnightly published by the Tupamaros with an estimated readership of 53,000. An additional 100 periodicals were imported from foreign countries.
Fifteen foreign wire services had offices in Montevideo. Persons affiliated with the National Party established Uruguay's first private international news agency, PRESSUR, in 1984. The Sanguinetti government had its own official news service, the Presidential Information Service (Servicio Presidencial de Información--SEPREDI), presumably retained by Lacalle with a new staff. The leading press associations were the Association of Newspapers of Uruguay, the Uruguayan Press Association, and the National Association of Uruguayan Broadcasters (Asociación Nacional de Broadcasters Uruguayos--ANDEBU).
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