“Pro-government and opposition journalists defend the interests of political and advertising/corporate power. Why is that? Because they don’t question it. Why is that? Because they make their living from them. Why is that? Because they don’t care about a struggle that is unknown and alien to them. Why is that? Because almost none of the news presenters or editorialists are involved in any struggle…”
In this column, Darío Aranda writes about a reality in which both journalism’s “official” and “opposition” lines converge. Describing two types of financial journalism, he writes: “agricultural journalists never visit the families of small farmers targeted by sprayings and evictions. Journalists on the oil industry never show their faces in the Mapuche communities, where people have heavy metals in their blood and die petroleum-related deaths. ‘Desktop journalism’ treats the problems of the urban middle class (which it relates to) differently to the suffering of a campesino or an indigenous person.”
The big global agro-corporation announces it will launch a new soybean seed, with more agrochemicals and promising to be “more productive.” A long line of journalists repeat the corporate rhetoric and celebrate the new soy. They don’t care about the laughable approval process of transgenic crops and agrochemicals (based on studies by the same companies), nor do they mention farmers’ resulting dependence, much less notice the consequent rural evictions, clearing of native forests, or soil depletion. They like to call themselves “agrarian journalists” or, more pompously, journalists “of the countryside.”
And in their image and likeness grow their little siblings, the “oil” journalists. Though they don’t describe themselves in those terms, they repeat the corporate rhetoric that calls fracking safe, parroting the words “water sources will not be affected,” while neglecting to mention the environmental disasters that these multinationals coming to Argentina have caused throughout the world. They even justified the brutal 2013 police repression in front of the provincial legislature in Neuquén . A combination of malpractice and complicity.
These journalists celebrate the $5 billion payout to Repsol for the expropriation of YPF but don’t mention corporate gutting and liquidation or the enormous environmental deficit, which could radically diminish the valuation. These journalists broadcast the corporation’s voice without question, but are silent (or deceptive) about human rights violations committed against indigenous peoples. Journalists who scornfully label as “environmentalists” mothers who have been sprayed with pesticides and seen their babies die, activists who defend their place of living against mining, entire families facing eviction because of dams or forestry companies.
Coincidence I: Corporations (farming, livestock, and hydrocarbon) generously buy advertising on radio and cable programs. The ads don’t buy the editorial policies, but they do place conditions on them. Critics no longer appear as in the past, or do not appear at all.
Coincidence II: Agricultural journalists never visit the families of small farmers wiped out by sprayings or evictions. Journalists on the oil industry never show their faces in the Mapuche communities, where people have heavy metals in their blood and die petroleum-related deaths. ‘Desktop journalism’ treats the problems of the urban middle class (which it relates to) differently to the suffering of a campesino or an indigenous person.
The media’s editorial policy is clear. No journalist is forced to say what they do not believe, or worse, nobody is forcing them to lie. Journalists cannot claim due obedience to conceal what is happening. Why would a journalist repeat the rhetoric of agro-multinationals and disguise the consequences of this model? What would bring an editor to blend in with an oil company head and engage in devious argument with a Mapuche spokesperson who described how the company ravaged their territory and decimated their town?
Agrarian and oil journalists are part of the extractive model led by corporations and governments. This model demands the sacrifice of the territories as well as the lives of those who resist on those territories.
During the recent teachers’ demonstrations, colleague and journalism teacher Adrián Figueroa Díaz got to the heart of the problem: “Pro-government and opposition journalists defend the interests of political and advertising/corporate power. Why is that? Because they don’t question it. Why is that? Because they make their living from them. Why is that? Because they don’t care about a struggle that is unknown and alien to them. Why is that? Because almost none of the news presenters or editorialists are involved in any struggle. And this classist issue within the profession is evidenced by the low-level moralizing of the middle class rhetoric they use. The most popular media and journalists prove themselves reactionaries in the face of social struggles.”
A standout among the merits of the last few years is the debate on the role of mass media. It has become clear to society at large, perhaps more than ever, that corporations put their economic and political interests before anything else.
What is still unresolved, and needs to be discussed urgently, is the individual role of journalists in these media. Not just those from the “major corporations,” but all of us who are part of the media. People who work in the press owe the people a deep self-critical look. We owe this especially to those who suffer violations of their human rights and who do not strike a responsive chord with the journalists. And we also owe a self-critique to the new generation of colleagues, so that it is made clear that journalists are not the mouthpieces of either political or economic power.
 In 2013, in the southern province of Neuquén, demonstrators were brutally repressed while marching against an agreement between the province and YPF (the national oil company) for the exploitation of oil resources in association with Chevron.