Argentina's government told the country's largest media conglomerate on Monday that it has begun a process to break up the company and auction off its media licenses.
Grupo Clarin has battled with President Cristina Fernandez for years. Fernandez argues that it is a corporate monopoly and has funded a network of pro-government newspapers and stations to challenge Clarin's dominance.
Grupo Clarin has called Fernandez's bid to break it up an illegal attempt to silence one of the government's leading critics and to stifle press freedom.
Martin Sabbatella, the head of the government media regulation body, said on Monday that the government will make the conglomerate and other companies comply with the law, which bars any company from owning too many different media properties.
It comes after a lower court judge ruled Friday that a three-year-old law against media monopolies is constitutional.
"We notified them of the start of the transfer of licenses because the law is constitutional," Sabbatella said at an impromptu press conference outside of Grupo Clarin's headquarters in Buenos Aires.
The process, which will end up with transfer of licenses, will last about 100 days. During this time, the media empire must take care of all its current holdings and keep all jobs, Sabbatella said.
Grupo Clarin said in an emailed statement that the government's action tramples on past rulings that favored the media group.
"It's totally inadmissible and illegal because it openly violates several legal rulings," Clarin said.
Clarin has said the judge's declaration lifting all injunctions in the case violates court procedures. The media group says a higher court had stayed the divestment requirement until the justice system rules definitively on challenges to the law.