Democracy or exclusion? Argentine politicians favor Twitter over journalists

By Maira Magro

When politicians chose the internet as the main place to talk about their activities and opinions, what happens to journalists? This line of questioning is coming up in Argentina, where several politicians have shown an adoration for social media coupled with a disdain for the traditional press.

This week, cabinet chief Aníbal Fernández announced that he would respond to questions in a “video interview” on his personal blog this Friday. Questions will be accepted via Twitter, Facebook, or the blog itself.

Social networks facilitate contact between citizens and government officials, but they can also act as a refuge for escaping indiscreet questions from the press. This was noted in an EFE article, in which they said that “the preference some Argentine cabinet members have for social media is in contrast to their scant interest in responding to questions from the press, especially those from foreign correspondents based in Argentina, who have tried for years, without success, to make contact with the president.”

The Spanish daily ABC says that the “twittermania” has led some journalists to resort to using social media to communicate with the authorities. Chancellor Héctor Timerman, another internet star, uses his microblogging profile to discuss trips and meetings, analyze the day’s news, defend the government, criticize the opposition, and, according to ABC, “mercilessly attack journalists.” “The good thing about Twitter is that one can debate without the media filter,” Timerman said. “Citizens directly questioning: this is democratizing information,” he added, in another comment.

Direct contact with the public can certainly be beneficial, especially in a year before an election, as ABC mentions. However, it will be difficult for social media to replace a broad national discussion that is mediated by the press.

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.