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Argentina shuts down Telam news service

Tuesday, March 5th 2024 - 10:58 UTC
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Press guilds dubbed the government's decision an attack against freedom of expression Press guilds dubbed the government's decision an attack against freedom of expression

Argentina's state-run news service Télam came to an end Monday when 700 of its workers received emails telling them they should not show up for work because they had been placed on leave while the outlet's website shows a sign reading it is “under reconstruction.” President Javier Milei had announced on March 1 that one of his spending cuts would involve closing what he dubbed “a nest of Kirchnerite propaganda.”

 Invoking the country's 50% poverty levels and the subsequent need to adjust State expenditures, Milei argued that Argentine taxpayers should not have to support these companies. The president's so-called “chainsaw plan” included a reduction of the number of ministries, the end of benefits for public officials, and the closure of institutions such as the National Institute against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism (INADI) and Telam.

The Buenos Aires Press Union (SiPreBA) said Milei's decision was one of the most serious attacks on freedom of expression in the last 40 years of democracy. Since Télam was created by law in 1945 under then-President Juan Domingo Perón, the legal basis for Milei's action remains to be seen. No bill has been submitted to Congress, and no emergency decree (DNU) has been issued, which could bypass parliamentary approval, albeit for a limited period.

With 27 correspondents and around 50 reporters and photojournalists nationwide, Télam's closure is expected to have an impact on the many outlets that fed off its service of around 500 daily reports.
The Association of Foreign Correspondents of the Argentine Republic (ACERA) issued a statement highlighting the need for the country to have a state - though non-governmental - news agency that guarantees access to plural information and supports the dissemination of news that, for obvious reasons, is not usually of interest to commercial media, but that is nonetheless vital for the public opinion.

A state agency also strengthens the arrival of information to all geographical locations in the country, ACERA also pointed out.

If, indeed, as the Government claims, Télam is no longer balanced and neutral, the path should be reformulated and not annihilated, the guild added while standing for the freedom of the press contemplated in articles 1, 7, 14, 33, 41, and 42 of the Argentine Constitution in as well as in international treaties of which Argentina is a signatory and which have Constitutional status.

Fearing Télams demise, various opposition lawmakers were reported to be eyeing a bill to guarantee the service's continuity. Kirchnerist Congressman Pablo Carro demanded “that the National Executive Power support Télam, as the only Argentine news agency with federal scope and correspondents in all provinces.” He warned that “a possible closure of Télam would affect not only the specific generation of daily use material of hundreds of medium and small companies and journalistic organizations nationwide but also hundreds of workers who practice journalism with professionalism and years of seniority. ”Its federal profile and its ability to generate diverse information, far from being eliminated, should be strengthened through a reorientation of this public company,“ Carro highlighted.

Former Left Front presidential candidate Myriam Bregman submitted a bill rejecting ”any attempt to advance on the scrapping and emptying of the Télam Agency.“ She argued that ”behind the closure of the Agency lies a new attack on the right to communication, information, and freedom of expression.“

Unión por la Patria's Eduardo Valdés had already sought last Thursday to have Congress prevent the closure of Télam. ”The Government has to understand that it cannot take everything that contributes to the construction of federalism, diversity, and quality of information.”

In line with Milei's policies, Radio Nacional (another state-owned media) Director Héctor Cavallero decided not to renew the contracts of over 100 workers in a move to have affiliates nationwide broadcast the same shows aired from Buenos Aires. He also asked the directors of the 48 provincial branches still in office to resign, Clarín reported.

Cavallero is a well-known entertainment producer dating back to the 1970s and 1980s who intends to make Radio Nacional profitable while under the previous management of Rosario Lufrano, it was decided that the station should not include any advertising.

Categories: Politics, Argentina.

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