The closure of the Télam news agency leaves the Argentine population facing an “information void” and weakens the country’s regional influence. This is the assessment of experts consulted by the Brazil in fact following the suspension of the agency’s services by Javier Milei’s government on Monday (4), a reason for protest by workers in front of the company’s headquarters in Buenos Aires.

Reported in the early hours of Monday that their work would be suspended for 7 days, the agency’s workers were prevented from accessing the company’s office, surrounded by police.

For Marcelo Botto, Argentine journalist and university professor, author of the book History of news agencies (2012), the definitive closure of the agency, if effective, will represent a “reduction in the circulation of information”.

“There is no other media outlet with similar coverage. It is the only one with truly national coverage. Most media outlets in the interior of the country and in the city of Buenos Aires, not just the big ones, but medium and small radio stations and websites feed information from Télam.”

In addition to Télam, only Rádio Nacional Argentina, also in Milei’s sights, distributes news throughout the country. With more than 700 workers, the agency has 27 correspondents distributed throughout Argentina and six abroad.

In Argentina, the concentration of media outlets is even greater than in Brazil, and is practically in the hands of two families, who control the media conglomerates under the newspaper umbrella. The clarin e The nation, and maintained in partnership the private agency DyN (Agência Diários e Notícias). After the closure of DyN in November 2017, Télam became the only news agency with coverage in the interior of the country and on the outskirts.

Pedro Aguiar, professor of Journalism at Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF), who has been researching news agencies for over 15 years, points out that the closure of Télam represents a “gap of information that will be quickly noticed because the press in the interior has no way of to cover this coverage with its own resources” and which could be a “shot in the foot” by the government itself, which has allies in these provinces.

In the speech that opened Argentina’s legislative year, on Friday (1), when he announced the closure of Télam, Milei classified the agency as a Kirchnerist propaganda vehicle. Aguiar points out that this is the same speech used by former president Mauricio Macri, who tried to fire around 40% of Télam employees in 2018, but was unable to do so due to the strong mobilization of workers.

“He went back because there was a lot of pressure from Télam journalists themselves, from other journalists, including people who are not left-wing or Kirchnerist. And he had to go back. Télam does not carry out Kirchnerist ideological propaganda, it provides a service that covers everything journalistically and supplies the Argentine press, including the private conservative press, which is an ally of Milei.”

Regional importance

In addition to providing information to the national press, public news agencies also fulfill a geopolitical role of influence, by disseminating information about their economy and political interests abroad.

In this sense, the experts consulted by the Brazil in fact point out that the closure of Télam will have regional impacts, due to its importance in disseminating news in Latin America. For Marcelo Botto, the closure of the agency is another indication of the country’s isolation.

“The Argentine State loses a prestigious source of information, especially in Latin America. It will negatively affect you, because it is a key tool for spreading your interests. If we take into account that information is power, the crucial management of information in this sense is lost”, assesses the Argentine researcher.

Pedro Aguiar points out that the agency also plays an important role in regional integration, having been one of the main coordinators of cooperation between public agencies in Latin America in 2011 for the formation of the Latin American Union of News Agencies, composed of Agência Brasil, Andina do Peru, AVN from Venezuela and Prensa Latina from Cuba.

“When Macri entered the government, he disrupted this cooperation that was hosted by Télam. And then this was dismantled, if in fact it is closed, it will leave this void within the field of information and in the field of cooperation, regional integration.”

Editing: Rodrigo Durão Coelho


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