Wednesday, November 23, 2011

International Coalition Urges United Nations To Protect Targeted Statisticians in Argentina

A coalition of international statistical organizations has urged a United Nations Special
Rapporteur to protect statisticians who have been the victims of escalating attacks by the
Government of Argentina. The appeal to the Special Rapporteur, whose charge is the
promotion and protection of the right of freedom of opinion and expression, was made
in August by the American Statistical Association (ASA) in a letter signed by Executive
Director Ron Wasserstein and William Seltzer, chair of the association's Committee on
Scientific Freedom and Human Rights. Since then, other statistical groups have
supported the ASA appeal by writing letters of their own to the Special Rapporteur.
In late September, a letter of support was sent by Jean-Michel Poggie, the president of
the Societe Francaise de Statistique. A second letter was written by Jae C. Lee, president
of the International Statistical Institute. Earlier this month, Jong Hoo Choi, president of
the Korean Statistical Society, also wrote, urging action to protect the targeted
individuals in Argentina. Additional professional societies in other countries are
expected to join this coalition in the coming weeks, according to Wasserstein and

The ASA letter expresses faith in the Special Rapporteur's ability to "use your good
offices to safeguard those targeted from further harm." It continues: "We fear that,
unless the Government is dissuaded from acting on the threats that they have so far
made, considerable harm may befall a group of statisticians simply carrying out their
work in accordance with the highest professional and ethical standards and that a great
disservice will be done to civil society in Argentina."
All the letters express concern about the harassment of and punitive measures taken by
Argentine authorities against statisticians and allied groups who have expressed their
professional views and published alternative measurements of the consumer price index
(CPI). Recent reports in the press have indicated that, in the long-running controversy
over the accuracy of Argentina's inflation numbers, the Argentine government has
recently issued subpoenas to various journalists and others in Argentina, including the
local office of the International Monetary Fund, so they can be called as witnesses
against their sources and consultants, in an effort to gather evidence against those
private statisticians and research organizations compiling alternative CPI estimates
using methods the government does not approve.

In its letter, the ASA states that "Since February 2011 the Government of Argentina has
been systematically harassing and endeavoring to punish" a number of individual
statisticians and research organizations that collect compile, and/or disseminate price
statistics using the unapproved methods. The attacks, which first took the form of fines,
"more recently have escalated to multiple fines and, reportedly, to threats of
imprisonment under the criminal law."

According to the ASA letter, "In addition to the directly targeted statisticians and
research organizations, the victims of these human rights violations include a wide range
of users of statistics in Argentina and elsewhere (for example, researchers, the press, the
business sector, and members of the general public), whose access to 'unapproved' inflation indicators and consumer price indices they prefer are being jeopardized.
Moreover, with distortions in price data, uses of many other statistical series are
seriously jeopardized."

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The full text of the ASA letter can be viewed or downloaded at ASA Letter

                                   Source:, ASA website 

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