Journalists and media workers in Argentina protest against massive layoffs across the country

Hundreds of Argentinian press and media workers gathered in the streets of Buenos Aires on March 3 to protest mass layoffs affecting their industry, according to news portal La Izquierda Diario.

The mobilization was organized by the Press Union of Buenos Aires (Sipreba for its initials in Spanish), along with the workers of Radio América, Tiempo Argentina and media company Grupo 23, who have not received their salaries since December 2015.

One of the main reasons for the protest was the dismissal of 136 workers of a total 160 employed at news channel CN23, which was part of the dismembered media conglomerate Grupo 23, and is now owned by Cristóbal López’s Grupo Indalo. The mass dismissal was repudiated by civil society, journalists and various institutions in the country, like the Argentinian Journalism Forum (Fopea for its initials in Spanish).

The protesters reached the capital’s main square, Plaza de Mayo, in front of the headquarters of the Cabinet of Ministers, to demand action from current Chief of Staff Marcos Peña, given little response of the Ministry of Labor in the case of CN23. According to Sipreba, Sergio Szpolski, one of the owners of Grupo 23, and his partner Matías Garfunkel, have been favored in this case.

Gabriel Michi, journalist from Radio América and CN23, told the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas that Grupo 23, which has almost 800 employees in its workforce, received a total of official advertising valued at about US $80 million from 2009 to 2015 when Szpolski and Garfunkel owned the company.

Compared to other media, those of Szpolski’s media group received the most government advertising during the previous government, Michi said. In 2015, Szpolski participated in the provincial municipal elections in Buenos Aires for the Front for Victory party, which was an ally to the ruling party at the time.

However, Michi added that even though the media of Grupo 23 had an editorial line that was not very critical of the previous government, its workers “always defended the most important values of the press,” doing their job professionally.

Michi also explained that many interpreted it as a true “hollowing out of the media,” also referring to the massive layoffs in the case of Grupo 23 that have been occurring since the electoral victory of opposition party presidential candidate Mauricio Macri.

Since then, Michi said, Szpolski and company began to get rid of some media in the group, stopped paying its suppliers and the salaries and bonuses of their employees.

The dismissed press workers, and those who continue working without receiving salaries, also have the support of the Argentine Federation of Press Workers (Fatpren for its initials in Spanish), which called for the intervention of the Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Security of the Nation to ensure employment for the journalists.

“We call on media owners to act responsibly, respecting labor rights of the workers and guaranteeing the continuity of employment,” Fopea demanded through a press release, through which the organization also urged the relevant authorities to take necessary actions to prevent the continued “hollowing out” of the media by owners.

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.