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Pedro Brieger, journalist and professor at the University of Buenos Aires, says Argentinians view the government’s dissociation from teleSUR as the loss of one of the only alternative voices for news in Latin America

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SHARMINI PERIES, TRNN: It’s the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. The new conservative president of Argentina, Mauricio Macri, he was sworn in on December 10 of 2015, upon taking office he has been delivering on his campaign promises of undoing the policies of the Kirchner era in Argentina by replacing it with pro-US neoliberal polices. The same policies that had once sunk the Argentinian economy into a great depression between 1998 and 2002. The latest example of this in the past week is that the conservative government of Argentina has made several bold changes to the country’s media landscape. It canceled the government’s participation in the multi-state broadcaster TeleSUR. With us to discuss all of this in Argentina is Pedro Brieger. Pedro is a sociologist, independent journalist, and professor of sociology at the University of Buenos Aires, and he’s the founder of Latin American news website Nodal. Also, he used to be a presenter at the Argentine Public Television Network until he himself became the victim of President Macri’s clampdown on critical journalism. Thank you so much for joining us today. PEDRO BRIEGER: Nice to meet you. PERIES: So, a few days ago the government announced this disengagement with TeleSUR. Tell us more about what happened, and why this is taking place. BRIEGER: I guess that they are doing it because they don’t agree with the fact that the Argentinian government is linked to the Venezuelan government, as the late Kirchner government was. They think that they are in touch with the opposition, and they disagree with this kind of populist, progressive governments you have in Latin America. So Mauricio Macri, the new Argentinian president, is acting in a current view with all that he said during the last years. PERIES: Give us a sense of what more is in store when it comes to the media landscape there. BRIEGER: It’s very simple. They are trying to remove all the people who supported Nestor and Cristina Kirchner in the last years from the public networks. They own, or they are, they don’t own directly, but I would say they have the support of the most important media, the most important cable networks and radio. Radio is very important in Argentina. So what we have now with this is more of the, most of the newspapers and mass media will support the government, and they have also now the control of the public media. So you can say that most of the broad public is now knowing what’s going on in Argentina through the lens of the governmental ideas. PERIES: And TeleSUR in particular, not only has it canceled its membership and support for TeleSUR, but it has also taken it off air. Tell me how that will be received in the Argentinian public, and what resistance is there to this, if there is any? BRIEGER: You can still watch TelSUR through some cable networks. It’s not exactly that they took off TeleSUR from the media in Argentina. It’s much more complicated. I don’t know exactly the details regarding the agreement between the last Argentinian government and the Venezuelan government regarding TeleSUR, but it’s a fact that the new government led by President Mauricio Macri said that TeleSUR is not going to be part of the project, the media project of this government. The reactions were, I would say, according to the political views of the people. Some of the people supported it and some of them were against, because they feel that they are losing the only different voice they have regarding the news in Latin America, and we could say all over the world. PERIES: Now, of course these types of policies in a previous era in Argentina, between 1998 and 2002, caused a great depression and unemployment, riots, and great hunger and poverty in the country. Do the people realize that this kind of an agenda that the new president is articulating and campaigned on had this kind of dire effect on the country? BRIEGER: It’s a good question. I think people are reacting to several factors, and not just the economic one. If you don’t take into account that the government, the new government of President Macri, during his campaign he promised not to do what he’s actually doing. In other circumstances, he said what he’s going to do and what he is, in fact, doing. But I think many people hated the former government so much that they wanted to bring change to Argentina even if they felt or thought or knew that this would lead Argentina to neoliberal politics. But you don’t have to forget that the crisis in Argentina, the most important moment of the crisis, was 15 years ago. So you have also a new generation of people who didn’t live that crisis and felt in the last year or two years that the problems were created by Cristina Kirchner’s government. PERIES: Now, Cristina Kirchner’s government, as well as prior to her the Nestor Kirchner government, all played a critical role in lifting Argentina out of the great crisis it was in. Are there not any significant historians and academics and economists who are alarming the population against these kinds of moves that Macri is now doing? BRIEGER: Yes, but I would say that now it goes through alternative medias. Because as I said before, the government has the support of the major mass media. But I think people are going to react, because they are going to feel real life in their pockets. When you increase 100 percent the fare of the bus, of the ticket bus, you feel it in your pocket, in your salary. Even if you don’t watch TV, you don’t listen to radio, you don’t read any newspaper. So I guess many people are going to feel it and they’re going to react. PERIES: Now, one of the things that they have done is also displaced you from the critical position in the media that you occupied. Tell us a little bit about that and what the consequences are on the public of such decisions. BRIEGER: Well, it’s clear that the new government is speaking about putting Argentina in the international agenda, bringing back, as they say, Argentina to the world. But it’s a paradox that they are taking from the main public news the person who, for the last twelve years, spoke about international politics. And they brought to the homes, or to millions, what was going on in Peru, in Bolivia, in the US and Europe, in the Arab world. So we are living a great paradox, that they say they want us to be part of the world and to be related to the world, and moving apart or aside the person who was recognized publicly because of his work of bringing the world to the, to the tables of the, of the people, as we say in Spanish, when you bring the news to the homes, to your home, that is, to bring it to your table. You eat, you watch the news. So we say you bring the news to the table. And this is a paradox. I think the new government doesn’t want to have different opinions on the mainstream media. Opinions who go against what they are believing or saying. I’ll give you a very clear example. If the new government, or this government, is speaking about Spain and saying that Spain is the model, you have somebody who is on TV saying, but wait a minute. You have 4 million unemployed. You have most, or almost half of the youngsters who don’t have a job in Spain, things are going bad. So there is a contradiction between what they want to say and convince the people that’s going on in Spain, and what the reality is. PERIES: Pedro Brieger, I thank you so much for joining us, and I will be reading you on Nodal, your new website. Thank you so much for joining us. BRIEGER: Thank you, of course. PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.


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Pedro Rubén Brieger is an Argentine journalist and sociologist who holds the Chair of Sociology in Middle East in the University of Buenos Aires.