Closure of Chilean newspaper after 95 years leaves 117 without work

By Alejandro Martínez

During a shareholders' meeting for the Chilean newspaper La Nación, government representatives, who control 69 percent of the company's shares, voted to close and liquidate the storied newspaper on Monday, Sept. 24, reported the EFE news agency. The decision puts an end to the 95-year-old newspaper and leaves 117 people without work.

Unions and minority shareholders opposed the decision. EFE reported that the private company Colliguay, owner of 31 percent of the newspaper's shares, plans to sue the State because "there are no economic reasons to justify the decision to close the company." A representative for the unions said they would appear in court to block the move.

The Chilean Union of Journalists said that President Sebastián Piñera, of the center-right Renovación Nacional, demonstrated his intentions to close the newspaper before assuming the presidency in 2010. Piñera accused the newspaper of operating like a "propaganda factory" for the center-left coalition that governed the country between 1990 and 2010, reported EFE.

"For 20 years, after the return of democracy, we have seen a newspaper that has always been under the subordination of the government. We believe this is not fair and that the government does not need its own media companies," presidential spokesman Andrés Chadwick told the AFP.

In an interview with CNN Chile, journalist for La Nación Jorge Escalante described the decision as "political revenge by the Piñera government."

The leader of the newspaper's workers, Nancy Arancibia, told the Associated Press that the decision will further increase media consolidation in the country, currently dominated by two companies.

"The newspaper is not going to disappear tomorrow but obviously the concentration of the printed press will tighten more because you don't have any media that reports differently from the two conglomerates that exist today," she said.

The newspaper La Nación was founded in 1917 and is located in front of the Palacio de la Moneda, the seat of government. Since 2010, La Nación has operated as an exclusively online publication after the president canceled its print version, citing economic problems.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.