Tuesday, July 16, 2024

ARGENTINA | 01-07-2024 16:08

Télam state news agency now 'advertising and state propaganda agency'

Argentina's government has officially closed the Télam state news agency, transforming it into a state advertising and "propaganda" outlet.

President Javier Milei’s government announced Monday that it has officially closed the Télam state news agency and transformed it into an "advertising and state propaganda agency."

The agency, which was founded in 1945 and had more than 700 employees when it was shuttered in March, "will cease to operate, as it was originally created, in the activities of journalistic services and as a news agency" and take on its new functions instead, said the government.

Télam will now be dubbed the State Advertising Agency (APE), in charge of "the development, production, marketing and distribution of national and/or international advertising material."

From now on, the new APE will align "its operations with a new strategic focus of the company to operate as an advertising and propaganda agency."

Milei's budget-slashing government suspended Télam's operations in March, saying it was facing millions in operating losses. The President said in a state-of-the-nation speech to Congress on March 1 that the outlet would be shuttered.

“We’re closing down the Télam agency, which has been used in the last decades as a Kircherite propaganda agency," alleged the head of state in his speech.

Three days after Milei's announcement, the news agency ceased operations. Its website was taken down and its offices in Buenos Aires were fenced off overnight. Workers were then exempted from going to work.

"Télam as we knew it has ceased to exist. The end," Presidential Spokesperson Manuel Adorni wrote Saturday on X, prior to the publication of the goverment's notice in the Official Gazette.

The SIPREBA Buenos Aires press union and Somos Télam, a group uniting workers at the agency, described the move as an "attack on freedom of expression."

"We are continuing our struggle to defend jobs and the social role of the public media, which this government intends to destroy," the groups wrote in a statement.

In its annual report, published in May, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders singled out Argentina in its press freedom rankings, saying Milei's decision to shutter Télam was a "worrisome symbolic act."

The NGO said that Milei's "aggressive stance towards journalism hinders pluralism."


Closure confirmed

Télam's closure was confirmed Monday, July 1, in the Official Gazette via Decree 548/2024, signed by the President and Cabinet chief Guillermo Francos.

Article 1 states that “Télam Sociedad del Estado is hereby transformed into a Single Shareholder Corporation, under the name Agencia de Publicidad del Estado Sociedad Anónima Unipersonal (APE S.A.U.) within the orbit of the Cabinet chief."

Article 2 defines the function of the new APE body, stating that it will operate “as an Advertising and Propaganda Agency, engaging in the preparation production, marketing and distribution of national and/or international advertising material, both within the Argentine Republic and abroad, in its capacity as an Advertising Agency."

The remaining articles indicate that the official in charge of the new agency will be the Deputy Cabinet Chief José Rolandi and that the remaining employees and company's assets will be moved to the new body.

Télam was created as a mixed public-private initiative in April 1945 by then-labour secretary Juan Domingo Perón, who would go on to serve three terms as president.

In 1959, under the presidency of Arturo Frondizi, it was privatised and renamed "Télam Sociedad Anónima, Periodística, Radiofónica, Cinematográfica, Comercial, Inmobiliaria y Financiera.”

Four years later, after the overthrow of Frondizi in a military coup, President José María Guido closed Télam for allegedly "disseminating false and biased information." In 1968, it was nationalised by dictator Juan Carlos Onganía.

With more than 700 employees at the time of its closure, including administrative staff, journalists and photographers, Télam's news service was broadcasting more than 500 cables a day, some 200 photographs and video, plus radio and social media content.

Around 30 percent of its workers were laid off via voluntary redundancies and the remaining workers will now be transferred to the new APE body.



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