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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Journalist claims political motives led to his dismissal from radio station and accuses Argentine President Macri



Minutes before the start of his program ‘La Mañana’ on station Radio Continental in Argentina this past Jan. 11, journalist Víctor Hugo Morales was informed that his contract had been terminated, newspaper La Nación reported.

Morales broke into the broadcasting room of the radio station and announced his dismissal, but was interrupted by a series of commercials. Minutes later, his colleagues talked with him on the air to say goodbye to the audience that he addressed for 30 years.

In his speech, he claimed that the president of the country, Mauricio Macri, was involved in his dismissal.

"What I want to tell them is that they are throwing me off the radio and that this is in the context of an oppressive, suffocating and terrible situation for democracy and freedom of expression. Mauricio Macri is the mask of Héctor Magnetto and Grupo Clarín, and they have taken over the country," La Nacion reported.

Meanwhile, Radio Continental issued a statement in which it noted that the dismissal was due to "repeated contractual breaches that alter the normal development of emissions,” according to Infobae. According to that site, sources from the station informed them that Morales frequently missed a sports program that he hosted in the afternoon because “it only interested him to talk about politics in the morning.”

President Macri denies any connection with the dismissal.

"We are not focused on seeing which journalist is working in which media, it is not our task, we don’t give opinions. I’m sorry for the things that Víctor Hugo said because they are totally false, and because I have had a very long relationship with Víctor Hugo,” Macri said according to portal Perfil.

The dismissal, as expected, generated much controversy between those who qualify it as an act of "censorship" and among those who see it as a valid decision within any private company. The latter, in turn, point to Morales’ attitude of silence before the alleged dismissals of journalists critical of the Kirchner administration.

And Morales, a popular Uruguayan journalist in Argentina, is one of the greatest defenders of both Kirchner administrations: that of Néstor (2003 - 2007) and that of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (2007 - 2015), and a critic of the Macri government, the Colombian magazine Semana reported.

Carlos Heller, a government legislator, insinuated that if someone needs public advertising, they need to get in line with the government.

For his part, Martín Sabbatella, head of the Federal Authority of Audiovisual Communication Services, an agency eliminated by Macri, said "Macri's authoritarian government is willing to take away 32 years of democracy with censorship, adjustment and repression Solidarity with VH” and called for a march “for freedom of expression and the plurality of voices.” The march took place on Tuesday, La Nación reported.

Not everyone is supportive. According to the website El Destape, several journalists have expressed criticism of Morales’ attitude.

One of them was the well-known writer and journalist Martín Caparrós who expressed his dissatisfaction in several tweets. One follows:

“Where was VHM when the public media – and private media – of the government that he supported, censored and excluded whatever opinion that didn’t praise it?”

In this line, the interview of Morales with Eduardo Feinmann had a significant impact since Feinmann, after hearing Morales’ accusation against Macri and the alleged pressure on the media from which he was fired, replied: "I understand what it means because I experienced exactly the same with the previous government. I understand Presidents [...] that put pressure on the owners of the media." Morales has kept silent concerning the comment, according to the website TN.

Apart from this discussion, Fundación LED (Foundation Freedom of Expression + Democracy) of Argentina expressed concern at the manner in which the dismissal was made and communicated.

"Beyond the commercial situation between the parties, it is regrettable that a decision of this nature is resolved abruptly generating a conflict for journalists and their audience," the Foundation said in its release. "As LED has already stated repeatedly, media companies have the possibility of defining the profile of their programming, however, these decisions out to be implemented within a framework of guarantees for the rights and freedoms enshhrined in our Constitution.”

The dismissal occurs in an already controversial environment. Macri signed a decree changing the Media Law previously approved by Cristina Fernández and his detractors have pointed that he wants to favor the interests of the Clarín media group.



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