Press under pressure: Argentina’s multi-faceted journalism crises

Hugo Alconada Mon, Investigations editor, La Nación
1st May 2024
13:00 - 14:00

The speaker 

Hugo Alconada Mon is an Argentinian journalist specialised in investigative journalism about corruption in politics, money laundering and corporate fraud. He’s been working for more than 20 years at La Nación, one of Argentina's leading media outlets, and he is part of the newspaper's main editorial team since 2009. He also writes for the Spanish newspaper El País and is a member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and worked on the Panama Papers.

The video


Four takeaways from the talk and discussion: 

1. The state of journalism in Argentina is dire. Since Javier Milei got elected President in November 2023, the state of journalism in Argentina has been in decline. Milei has not only nudged on attacks against journalists, but his government has also avoided engaging with the media. Alconada himself said that he has been requesting an interview with Milei and his team since February of last year, before he became President, to no avail. In addition, the President has blocked the journalist on X. 

“Public officials are avoiding journalists. They are intensively using social media to spread propaganda just to avoid the analysis and the checks done by journalists,” he said. “I would say that there has also been an increase of some tendencies in social media like bots, trolls attacking journalists and media outlets with half truths or complete lies. In the case of President Milei, he is going much further than his predecessors when it comes to harassing journalists.”

2. Public media in the country has been starting to shut down. When he was elected, President Milei made the promise that he was going to privatise or shut down public media outlets. Earlier this year, he successfully kept his promise by announcing the closure of the national news agency, Télam. 

Alconada points out that this deterioration of public media will affect regions in the country where there are no other media outlets. A survey of news deserts found that 6.6 million people in Argentina live in places where there is not a single independent press outlet. “It's very difficult to be a journalist in those regions and in some ways the public broadcasters were able to give a voice to those areas,” he said. “If you close those public media outlets, it will be a major problem in those regions.”

3. Journalists should help each other to protect each other. Throughout the various government administrations in Argentina, Alconada has been accused of treason, threatened, wiretapped and stalked. He said that the best way he found to be able to protect himself and his work was to rely on other colleagues, even colleagues from competing outlets, to let them know what was happening and giving them the scoop of whatever investigation he was doing so that they could offer their support and credibility in case his work was discredited by the government. 

Alconada then took part in the creation of a national alliance of investigative journalists. “The idea was to help each other even though we are competing against one against the other, but we are also trying to be lone wolves,” he explained. “But it’s to say ‘Hey, if you are facing a problem, call us. If you are dealing with some issues, call us. If you have something you cannot complete on your own, call us. If you are being threatened, call us.’” 

4. Journalists should use different strategies to circumvent limitations set by the government. As mentioned before, public officials in Argentina have become extremely adept at avoiding scrutiny by avoiding speaking with journalists. Alconada, who has been requesting an interview with the President for over a year, pointed out that Milei has chosen to do interviews with international media outlets to perhaps avoid tough questioning from local journalists. 

“[Milei] gave an interview to the Financial Times, thinking that the Financial Times would be closer to his political and economical views,” said Alconada. “President Milei found out that the Financial Times were journalists doing their job so what happened was that he had to answer some uncomfortable questions that he refused to answer in Argentina.”

To circumvent these limitations, Alconada further advocated for relying on your local and international colleagues to get the answers you need. “If you know that you cannot get access to a public officer but you know that that public officer will be willing to answer questions from my colleague from abroad, maybe try to contact that colleague to pass them your questions,” he said. 

The bottom line

Since Javier Milei became President of Argentina in November 2023, journalism in the country has faced escalating challenges. Milei's administration has not only hindered access to information by avoiding engagement with local media but has also shut down public media outlets, exacerbating news deserts in remote regions. In response, journalists like Alconada have formed alliances to support one another and have resorted to innovative strategies, such as leveraging international colleagues, to overcome government-imposed limitations and continue their investigative work.

  • Read a write-up of our seminar from GIJN's Laura Dixon here.
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