Government ordered by court to explain Télam closure

The executive branch will have to provide reports on the public news agency, which has been virtually shut down since March 4

The judiciary has ordered the executive power to explain its attempts to close down public news agency Télam since March 4. Workers have been on paid leave since the agency was virtually shut down, its website featuring an “under reconstruction” message.

The government will have five days to send relevant reports after being notified on Friday by the 10th Administrative Litigation Court, which appointed itself to work on a lawsuit that Senator Juliana Di Tullio filed on March 8.

“The agency’s closure affects the right to receive truthful information, leaves the Argentine people vulnerable to fake news, and wears down our institutionality and democracy,” Di Tullio said in a press release on Friday. “Télam reaches every corner of our country, that’s why defending it is so important.”

On March 1, during his speech at the legislative year inauguration, President Javier Milei said he would be shutting down Télam. He had previously attempted to privatize it, along with 40 other public companies, as a part of his “omnibus bill,” which collapsed in February. The government is now working on a new version that doesn’t include Télam in the privatization list.

On March 3, minutes before midnight, late-night shift Télam workers found police officers had appeared outside the agency’s two offices in downtown Buenos Aires. Around an hour later, all employees were sent on paid leave via email, and the website was shut down. On the morning of March 4, the reporters found both buildings had been fenced off overnight, with police stationed outside that refused to let them inside.

Télam employees have since been camping day and night outside the buildings in protest. They also launched a website called Somos Télam (We Are Télam), where they post daily news stories and photographs, despite being on leave. It also includes English and Portuguese versions.

The same day the agency’s site was shut down, Presidential spokesperson Manuel Adorni said the government would unveil its plan to close Télam and what would happen with each employee. However, the government hasn’t provided updates in the intervening weeks The only development was that the company offered voluntary layoffs to its employees a week after the virtual closure, but few have accepted, according to Somos Télam.

By law, as a state company, Télam can’t be declared bankrupt, and can only be sold by the executive branch with congressional approval. “The executive power is acting in a de facto manner, without any administrative proceedings, without modifying [Télam’s] statute, without any law [approved],” Di Tullio said.

With around 700 employees nationwide, Télam is Argentina’s largest news agency. Founded on April 14, 1945, its services were used by small and large media outlets alike to provide reporting and details they could not produce in-house. 

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Featured image: Somos Télam


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