The government of Argentina is seeking to take pan-American TV station TeleSUR off the air, in a move the broadcaster said on March 28 amounts to censorship. Latin American social movements have already condemned the move by the South American nation's new right-wing President Mauricio Macri.
Headquartered in Caracas, Venezuela, TeleSUR was founded in 2005 with support from the governments of Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Uruguay and Argentina. It was set up to provide an alternative to the only existing pan-American channel, CNN in Spanish, and support Latin American unity and integration.
However, Argentine communication minister Hermann Lombardi announced on March 27 that his government had begun the process of removing itself as a TeleSUR shareholder. Once officially approved, TeleSUR's televised news content, which is now broadcast to 80% of the country's viewers, would be removed from the state-operated Open Digital Television service.
Private cable packages would also no longer be obligated to include the news outlet. “We have agreed to start the process of terminating the participation of the Argentine state with TeleSUR,” Lombardi told La Nacion.
The conservative newspaper also reported that the Macri government could move to close down the TeleSUR's Argentina office.
In a March 28 statement, TeleSUR said the Macri administration has “an open interest in disappearing TeleSUR”. It also said any action to close down its correspondent centre in the country would be an act of “open illegality” tantamount to “persecution”.
“Any action against our correspondents would constitute an open illegality," the statement read. “Is it Macri's intention to silence critics of his government?”
The move has also been condemned as “politically motivated” by social movements aligned with the regional Latin American and Caribbean integration body, the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our America (ALBA). Founded by Venezuela and Cuba in 2004, the anti-imperialist political bloc now involves 11 nations.
The Assembly of Social Movements for ALBA wrote on March 28: “We understand that this action is a clear violation of freedom of expression.
“It will deprive Argentines from receiving alternative information to what's promoted and disseminated by the mainstream media of the country, fully aligned with the anti-popular and neoliberal policies of the Argentine government.”
The movements said that taking TeleSUR off the air violated the right to freedom of thought and expression. The statement said the channel has played a role in spreading information about “social struggles and the consequences of adjustment policies suffered by the Argentine people and imperialism's interventionist policies across the continent”.
“It's no coincidence that this announcement has been made a few days after the visit of North American President Barack Obama in Argentina, in apparent support of the Macri government, which is fast becoming the spearhead for imperialist progress in the region.
“That's why taking TeleSUR off state and private platforms is not an isolated policy of the Argentine government, but rather part of a continental strategy that seeks to isolate processes of change on the continent, as well make popular movements that confront neoliberal and anti-popular policies invisible.”
The statement rejected the decision as a “strong attack on Latin American unity” in favour of large mainstream media that “have radiated their version of events that have legitimized and defended the neocolonial” order for decades.
The movements said Macri's action “violates the plurality of voices in Argentina and the continent” and threatens a setback in the project for regional integration and independence from the global North.
The statement noted that, after just a few months in office, Macri's administration has overturned policies designed to ensure media diversity by limiting the power of media conglomerates and create space for alternative and independent voices.
The conservative government has also overseen layoffs of “dozens of critical journalists” and “censorship of radio and television programs not aligned with the government”, ALBA movements wrote.
Macri's overhaul of media laws and journalist sackings have been met with protests in Argentina.
— Diario Argentina Hoy (@ArgentinaHoyOk) March 14, 2016
Tweet reads: "Large protest against Macri in Rosario in light of the silence of the large national media outlets."
The social movements concluded the statement with a rallying cry for defence of democratic principles and media diversity: “We call on all the popular movements of our America, and the world, on all the anti-neoliberal and democratic political sectors, on the labour unions, intellectuals, journalists and communication professionals to join this fight in defence of the expression of the people and the reflection of their struggles.”
[Compiled from TeleSUR English.]