“It went from being a place of journalism to a space for party-political activism”, was how the head of Argentina’s public media network Hernán Lombardi described operations at state-run news agency Télam.
Lombardi was addressing a Lower House committee over accusations he and Télam’s management had unfairly targeted, on ideological grounds, the 357 workers recently fired from the agency.
From 2003 to 2015, the agency “almost doubled” its personnel from 479 to 926 people and almost 50 were hired “on just one day in November 2015”, days before Mauricio Macri became president.
Lombardi said the “level of absenteeism, the amount of unjustified days off, the very low productivity compared to other international agencies”, was “unacceptable”.
“All of this mismanagement undermines the most important attribute of a news agency: its credibility”, he said Wednesday, claiming that the agency had lost subscribers.
The opposition criticised Lombardi for alleged “ideological persecution” against workers, particularly unionised workers.
“We have separated workers who do not meet the profile” that the agency needs, was how Télam’s board of directors had described the decision on June 26 to fire 40 percent of its permanent staff.
The agency’s management said the move was part of an effort to “modernise and professionalise the company.”
“Like so many state agencies and companies, the agency we inherited was also a victim of the irresponsibility and mismanagement of the previous government which used the public service for the purposes of political support,” the outlet’s management said in a statement.