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August 17, 2017

Obituary

Friday, June 16, 2017

Clarín publisher, Ernestina Herrera de Noble, dies at 92

Ernestina Herrera de Noble, who has died aged 92.
Ernestina Herrera de Noble, who has died aged 92.
Ernestina Herrera de Noble, who has died aged 92.

Ernestina Herrera de Noble, the main shareholder and director of Argentina’s biggest media conglomerate the Clarín Group, died in this city on Wednesday, a week after her 92nd birthday.

She was buried yesterday in the world-famous Recoleta cemetery. The cause of death was given as a heart condition but basically her advanced age.

Although the Clarín newspaper was founded by her husband Roberto Noble and she inherited the media group solely by virtue of being his spouse, Herrera de Noble was at its helm for exactly twice as long (1969-2017) as he was (1945-69) and came to be seen as the giant’s iconic figure.

Born in 1925 in the same city where she died this week, she caught Noble’s eye as a flamenco dancer but it took them many years to tie the knot because both were married to others (no divorce law in those days). When they finally wed in 1967, despite an age difference of 23 years, the marriage lasted less than two years because Noble died of cancer in early 1969.

“We bid farewell to Ernestina Herrera de Noble, a key figure in journalism and the defence of press freedom. My condolences to her family,” wrote President Mauricio Macri on his Twitter account.

A major presence in journalism, no doubt, but the defence of press freedom is more debatable. There was little enough sign of it during the dark days of the 1976-83 military dictatorship, when she developed a cozy enough relationship with the juntas. So much so that she was to be accused of using these links to seize a newsprint monopoly (in conjunction with the La Nación newspaper) via the illicit acquisition of Papel Prensa in 1976.

That period also saw her adopt her children Marcela and Felipe (a marriage at the age of 42 lasting less than two years gave her little chance of offspring of her own). This also caused legal problems, leading to her arrest on alleged charges that her children were really the result of baby-snatching from “disappeared” people.

This case has been widely presented by the Clarín group as a vendetta mounted by the CFK presidencies obsessively at odds with the media giant, but in fact Herrera de Noble was arrested under the Eduardo Duhalde administration in 2002 and the charges originated from the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo human rights organisation.

But thanks to Macri reaching the presidency in late 2015, she was able to die this week free of both charges — at the start of 2016 she was cleared of illegal adoption on the grounds that genetic proof was lacking and, at the other end of that year, she was acquitted of the Papel Prensa charges.

Macri’s proximity to the deceased media tycoon stems from his constituency but there is also a less obvious link — in his 2015 presidential campaign Macri defined himself as a “developmentist” (an economic theory of self-starting industrialisation much in vogue over five decades ago) and City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta’s family history is also closely connected to that political strand. Especially in her early years, Herrera de Noble did much to encourage the “developmentism” which her late husband had already embedded in the Clarín newsroom.

Mourned by Macri, close to the military dictatorship and hated by the Kirchners (although, strictly speaking, far more on a collision course with Cristina Fernández de Kirchner than with the Néstor Kirchner presidency), Herrera de Noble ensured that no government could be indifferent to the Clarín Group.

Her clash with then-president CFK reached its climax with the Broadcasting Law, approved by Congress in 2009, whose main target was widely assumed to be the Clarín Group’s monopoly. This capped private media ownership at 35 percent of the television market, 10 radio licences and 24 for cable TV. It triggered an intense legal battle lasting over four years until resolved by the Supreme Court.

But Clarín has emerged intact from that battle as one of Latin America’s biggest media groups with multiple interests in radio, television (including cable) and Internet, as well as the original newspaper (now also digital) which remains one of the most important in the Spanish-speaking world.

The Macri government opened the doors of telecommunications to the Clarín Group, something the conglomerate has sought for over fifteen years.

Herald staff

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