President Milei announces shocking closure of Télam, sparking outrage and solidarity

Since March 4, 2024, and every subsequent Sunday, we workers have received a routine email excusing us from our duties at the Agency for the coming week. Over a month has passed since the first attempt to shut down Télam.

  • 2 weeks ago
  • May 5, 2024
journalist’s notes
interview subject
Andrea Delfino is a seasoned journalist with over three decades of experience, currently serving as a delegate for the Télam agency under the Press Union of Buenos Aires (Sipreba). Initially specializing in political journalism, Andrea’s versatile career has encompassed reporting across various sectors including society, law enforcement, economy, international news, and sports. Due to life and technological advancements, she gradually shifted her focus to specialize in technology and telecommunications. With 34 years of dedication at Télam, Andrea’s breadth of knowledge and adaptive expertise underscore her distinguished tenure in the field of journalism.
background information
Télam, Argentina’s national news agency, was founded on April 15, 1945, by Juan Domingo Perón to challenge the dominance of foreign news agencies like the American Associated Press and United Press International during the early Cold War. Named after “Telenoticiosa Americana,” Télam has withstood seven attempts at closure, privatization, or downsizing, continuing its mission to uphold information sovereignty and prioritize public access to information as an inalienable human right, countering the commercial aims of the increasingly concentrated traditional media system. For more details on Télam’s enduring legacy, visit Página 12.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — On March 1, 2024, during the opening of the ordinary legislative sessions, broadcast on national television, President Javier Milei shockingly announced the closure of Télam. His declaration sent ripples throughout the weekend as I tried to console my colleagues as they reported on the Legislative Assembly while learning about the shutdown. The news felt devastating, cutting us off abruptly from our resources. Our website and extensive news and photographic archives suddenly became inaccessible.

The immediate future of our jobs and Télam remained shrouded in uncertainty. Yet, this ordeal revealed the immense strength and solidarity among us. Our connection as journalists only deepened, drawing us closer and uniting us around a common cause. As we camp outside the building in pursuit of justice, our resolve to face whatever comes next is stronger than ever.

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Milei shuts Télam down: employees grapple with devastation

On the night of March 3, 2024, colleagues from the last shift at Télam reported that a Federal Police van arrived, and officers began setting up barriers at the building’s entrance. Fortunately, a group of union representatives and authorities managed to get inside just before the officers completed their task.

From that point, we started to publicly denounce the activity. The workers who stayed inside sent out the last dispatch. Since then, no journalists managed to enter the newsroom. The full impact of the closure struck on Monday when my colleagues and I received a brief, four-line email that relieved us of our duties. The news hit me hard; I felt a lump in my throat, and my voice cracked as I grappled with the closure.

Arriving at work to find towering fences over two meters high blocking entry left me profoundly shocked. Work materials and personal items representing our daily lives at work became inaccessible. Desks cluttered with glasses, notebooks, pens, papers, thermoses, picture frames, and drawings remained inside, leaving behind something resembling a ghost town.

We quickly devised an action plan focused on non-violence and a commitment not to respond to any provocations. Our strategy included pursuing legal avenues, continuing to fulfill our work hours on-site, and reporting news directly from the sidewalk outside the agency. That morning, the scene looked striking: a diverse group from various trade unions, political factions, and social groups gathered in solidarity with us.

Télam’s former employees camp outside the building and launch news portal “Somos Telam”

However, the atmosphere changed when six young men, supporters of Javier Milei, openly celebrated the agency’s closure at its doors. Neighbors across the street, who saw us guarding the place overnight, responded with indignation. Although the confrontation proved brief, someone captured it on video. It continues to circulate on social media, highlighting the day’s tensions.

On March 4, 2024, in response to the closure, we organized a 24/7 encampment at Télam’s two headquarters. We also launched a news portal called Somos Telam, featuring texts, photos, podcasts, and videos freely available to the public.

We stand united outside both headquarters, representing 770 affected jobs, with each position tied to a family. Amid the camp, Mate [traditional energizing Argentine tea] circulates among weary yet determined faces. Some of us seek distraction, others engage in impromptu therapy sessions, speculating about future developments.

The uncertainty enveloping us since the legislative sessions began mirrors the unease we felt during the Covid-19 Pandemic. It remains clear from the looks in my colleagues’ eyes, I am not alone in this feeling. Nevertheless, we continue to gather near Télam to work together, fostering a sense of community.

We encourage each other not to isolate at home. Our routine has adapted: we wake up, bathe, eat breakfast, brush our teeth, dress, and head to the encampment. This is our new way of going to work. This active resistance is our strategy to ward off despair. The community’s solidarity is palpable. Often, neighbors inquire if we need anything. Social and political groups provide food while passing cars honk in support. Friends join us with their guitars to offer comfort through music. 

Campsite conditions prove challenging, workers remain determined in the struggle

This challenge we face feels difficult, but we persist together. While some play cards to pass the time, others write, read, endure, resist, and discover moments of joy amidst the struggle. We endure it all including rain, cold, and wind, even relocating our birthday celebrations to the campsite. Watching the glow of birthday candles flickering among us as we sing “Happy Birthday,” leads to applause and smiles. Yet, these moments often end in tears.

We sleep in makeshift beds on the street, drawing comfort from each other’s resilience. During the quieter late-night hours, wrapped in blankets and sipping warm drinks, it’s not unusual for a car to stop. Once, a lady approached to ask us to sign a petition advocating for Télam to operate under parliamentary oversight. Every day, countless people like her show their support, sending shivers down my spine with their generosity. 

Neighbors frequently come by to deliver thermoses filled with coffee or hot water, and some offer the use of their bathrooms. One neighbor asked if we remained determined to continue our protest. When I confirmed our commitment, she handed over a sleeping bag, embodying the solidarity that becomes so vital during crises.

A particularly stirring moment occurred when the Pope himself sent a video message. In it, he expressed his prayers for us amidst these troubling times. His words moved me profoundly, and I thought, “If he is praying for us, surely we cannot fail.” Last Holy Thursday, emotions surged again at our encampment. Choked by tears, we witnessed a poignant ceremony led by a group of priests from the Option for the Poor.

Every Sunday, Télam workers receive emails excusing them from duties; in return they proclaim: “We are Télam, and Télam Will Not Close.”

In a moving reenactment of Jesus’ gesture at the Last Supper, they washed the feet of some of the workers. Watching this scene filled me with overwhelming strength and emotion. The strumming of a Creole guitar enhanced the moment. The song resonated with our struggle: “We have to keep walking, nomás [no more].”

During these reflective moments, our silence often broke, giving way to a loud, collective declaration: “We are Télam and Télam does not close.” Sometimes I joined in the shouts. Other times, I simply absorbed the sounds that seemed to synchronize with my breathing. I felt a fire ignite within me, bolstering my resolve to continue the fight.

When asked what we need during these trying times, my answer is always the same: hugs. The embrace of another human being keeps us together, offering the emotional support needed to endure this ordeal with our bodies and hearts. Sometimes, I stand and find myself transfixed before the towering fences. As I stare up at their daunting height, I feel the weight of our restrained surroundings.

Today, the future remains uncertain. Since March 4, 2024, and every subsequent Sunday, we workers have received a routine email excusing us from our duties at the Agency for the coming week. Over a month has passed since the first attempt to shut down Télam. Despite this, we persist in our fight, affirming that Télam will remain open and underscoring that democracy is incomplete without public media.

It’s a challenging battle, but we persist. Whenever someone among us feels forgetful, discouraged, or loses hope, an uplifting reminder surrounds us. Everywhere you look, there are signs, literally hundreds of thousands of them, bearing a powerful message: We defend Télam. We defend democracy.

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