Milei to close down Télam offices in Argentina

The state news agency has been inoperative since the beginning of March

The Milei administration announced on Friday that it would close all state news agency Télam’s correspondent offices in the country. 

Although the news agency has not been officially shut down, its workers are currently on leave, and the website has been inoperative since the beginning of March. Also on Friday, a court dismissed an injunction a journalist union had filed challenging the government’s decision. 

In order to legally close it, the government would have to subject the matter to a vote in Congress.

Shortly after taking office, President Javier Milei stated that he intended to privatize Télam. During his March 1 speech before Congress, he promised he would close it down, calling it “a Kirchnerist propaganda agency.” Two days later, Télam journalists got an email telling them not to come to work. The website has had a notice that reads “page under reconstruction” ever since.

According to a communiqué on Friday signed by Télam’s government-appointed chairman, Diego Chaher, the company has been told to “begin closing its correspondent’s offices.”

The measure includes offices in Chaco; Bahía Blanca and La Plata (Buenos Aires province); Entre Ríos; La Pampa; Misiones; Río Negro; Salta; Santa Fe and Rosario (Santa Fe province); Córdoba; Corrientes; and Mendoza.

Télam, created in 1945, has approximately 700 employees and is the biggest news agency in Argentina. It has reporters nationwide and media outlets rely on it to provide reporting they cannot produce in-house. According to a recent report the agency released, last October it produced 12,844 newswires, 6,030 photos, and other material, including audio clips and infographics. This content was downloaded or viewed over 450,000 times.

When asked about the Télam news in his usual daily press conference, presidential spokesperson Manuel Adorni said that closing down the offices was “simply a matter of common sense.” “If the agency is closed because the workers have been released, it makes no sense to have correspondents in the provinces,” he said, adding that taxpayers were paying for Télam.

Chaher’s communiqué came on the International Day of Press Freedom. The 2024 World Press Freedom Index released on Friday revealed that press freedom in Argentina has worsened significantly since Milei took office. The country slid from 40th last year to 66th in the 2024 ranking. International freedom of information watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RWB) was responsible for the report.

A union-filed injunction is turned down

The Fifth Chamber of the Federal Administrative Litigation Court rejected an injunction the Argentine Federation of Press Workers (FATPREN) had filed challenging the transformation of Télam and Radio y Televisión Argentina into private corporations mandated by Milei’s December mega-decree. 

The ruling concluded that the plaintiff “lacked the necessary standing to create a case.”

For two months, Télam workers have been camping outside the agency’s headquarters in Buenos Aires. They have created a website called Somos Télam (“We are Télam”) to showcase their work and struggle. On their X account, the workers argued that the ruling does not validate Milei’s mega-decree nor grant the government the right to close Télam or any other state media outlet.

“It is part of a psychological campaign against public media workers that started the same day Milei won the runoff elections,” they said. “We are used to it and we are not going to be intimidated.”


All Right Reserved.  Buenos Aires Herald