Workers at the media cooperative Por Mas Tiempo today reported a violent assault on its newspaper Tiempo Argentino’s offices in the early hours of this morning.
Por Mas Tiempo was formed by journalists after the owners of Grupo 23, Sergio Szpolski and Matías Garfunkel, stopped funding the group’s nine media outlets. While some were sold off or shut down, journalists at daily Tiempo Argentino voted to keep producing a self-funded weekly newspaper, which they relaunched in March more than three months after they stopped receiving wages.
Since then, the cooperative says they have received threats from people claiming to have bought ownership of Tiempo Argentino and Radio América, including the man who led last night’s raid, Mariano Martínez Rojas.
A little after midnight, around 20 masked men with hoods stormed Tiempo Argentino’s offices in Colegiales, evicting the three workers inside by force and taking control of the building.
The men then proceeded to ransack the offices – destroying equipment and furniture- while blocking anyone from re-entering the building.
Members of the cooperative began arriving after being alerted of the intrusion and called the police, who set up a guard outside the building but refused to enter.
“When we asked the officers to get them out, they told us that we has to wait until first thing in the morning to talk,” described Alejandro Wall, a delegate and worker at Tiempo Argentino, in his account of the ordeal posted by La Garganta Poderosa.
The workers eventually forced their way back in themselves, provoking a tense stand off with the intruders.
“After the Tiempo Argentino workers managed to get back into the building via an alternative entrance, police officers intervened against the ‘mob’ led by Mariano Martínez Rojas, who at end-January declared himself owner of the company that ran Tiempo Argentino and Radio América, even though he never paid any salaries or took any responsibility,” read a statement released today by the Por Mas Tiempo cooperative.
It also included sharp criticism of the police detail for protecting the interests of the intuders over those of the cooperative. “Martínez Rojas threatened Tiempo workers in front of the police. Even though the attackers had assaulted staff, destroyed the interior of the building and forced open locks to take paperwork belonging to the cooperative, the prosecutor ordered that they be released and were incredibly escorted by the police out of the building.”
Prosecutor Verónica Andrade today began a case against Martínez Rojas for usurping the property and vandalism.
“The workers at Tiempo Argentino demand the government act to protect the workers at the newspaper, and the judiciary to move swiftly against those responsible for this brutal attack on the freedom of expression,” concluded the Por Mas Tiempo statement.
Hernán Lombardi, the national head of public media, wrote on Twitter that “the savage attack on Tiempo Argentino attacks a sacred public good: the freedom of the press and the circulation of ideas.”
The cooperative also announced today that it would release a special edition of the newspaper on Tuesday 5th July with more information about the attack.
“They will not bring us to our knees,” wrote Wall. “We will keep producing Tiempo Argentino”