Concern about the Attack on Journalist Jorge Lanata

Fundación LED (Libertad de Expresión + Democracia) expresses its deep concern over the attack at journalist Jorge Lanata´s home and requests the National Authorities to take urgent action to protect him.

According to today´s report by that journalist, the conductor of the TV show Periodismo Para Todos (PPT) (Journalism for Everybody) which is aired on Sunday nights on Channel 13, the building where he lives, in the Retiro district of the City of Buenos Aires, was attacked three times in twelve hours. In the afternoon of August 3 strangers threw stones at the building entrance, during the night the Federal Police booth set up outside the building was also attacked and a few hours ago eight bullet casings were found at the main door of the premises.

Although the journalist avoided accusations and did not identify who may have been responsible, the fact that the attack took place two days after his presentation on drug trafficking and its connections with the political power is most disturbing. This is about the triple crime committed in August, 2008, when victims Sebastián Forza, Leopoldo Bina and Damián Ferrón were found dead in a field in the General Rodríguez area, in the province of Buenos Aires. The crime was connected with the so called “ephedrine trail,” and the case, which began when a major synthetic drug (made from ephedrine) production lab was discovered in a country house in Ingeniero Maschwitz, province of Buenos Aires, touched upon the 2007 presidential campaign.

During the show Periodismo para Todos which was aired on August 2, 2015, a special report was published in which Martín Lanatta and José Luis Salerno, two of the convicted criminals, identified Aníbal Fernández, the current Chief of Cabinet Ministers (at that time the Minister of the Interior) as the mastermind in the “triple murder” case.

A few hours before PPT was broadcasted, in his Twitter account, Aníbal Fernández, who is running as the ruling party precandidate for Buenos Aires Province Governor, accused the production of extortion and connected the report to other electoral maneuvers.

The fact that journalist Jorge Lanata was assaulted after publishing information concerning drug trafficking in Argentina is most disturbing. Events such as this one should be analyzed in a context of growing tensions and disputes with journalists and/or the media denouncing or investigating events which connect narco gangs with different sources of power.

Fundación LED has been warning about this since 2012[1]. Acts of violence against journalists investigating narco cases and/or organized crime are getting more and more frequent. Germán Sasso[2], a journalist from Bahía Blanca, was indicted because he did not reveal his source of information after publishing wire tapings connected to the “Suris” case, in which a connection was made between narco networks and money laundering and Government friendly entrepreneurs. The Santiago del Estero journalists Juan Pablo Suárez and Nicolás Adet Larcher[3] were both ordered in that case to remove investigation pieces concerning drug trafficking in that province. Hernán Lescano, from the city of Rosario, was threatened because he was investigating local criminal gangs. Germán de los Santos[4], La Nacion correspondent in the province of Santa Fe, was assaulted at his home and journalist Javier Sassi, from Córdoba, was attacked on account of his investigations. During 2014 one of the most significant cases was the attack with Molotov bombs against the newspaper El Sol[5] from the city of Mendoza, whose journalists were being constantly threatened.

It is in this most disturbing context that the attack against Mr. Lanata has taken place. We are deeply concerned about the institutions in our country and the act of violence against Jorge Lanata´s home proves us right. If investigative journalism is threatened and the corridors of power are aggressive with journalists who publish their investigations, these journalists are no longer safe. Indeed, the Special Rapporteur of the Inter American Commission on Human Rights of the OAS emphasized in its report on Violence against Journalists and Media Workers of 2013, “the responsibility of government officials (is) to maintain a public discourse that does not place journalists at increased risk of violence.”

Given that drug trafficking is increasing in Argentina and that the attacks on journalists have also increased, on July 29, 2015, Fundación LED requested a hearing with the Inter American Commission on Human Rights to ask such international agency to take action for the protection of journalists that had been attacked, as well as to prevent the rising violence against them.

In the same report dated 2013, the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression also pointed out “a simple but highly effective protective measure consists of the highest authorities of the State recognizing in a consistent, clear, public and firm manner the legitimacy and value of the journalistic profession, even when the information disseminated may prove critical of, inconvenient to or inopportune for the interests of the government. Similarly, it is essential that the authorities vigorously condemn attacks committed against media workers and encourage the competent authorities to act with due diligence and speed to investigate such events and punish those responsible.”

At Fundación LED we therefore request that the National Authorities take protection measures as may be necessary to guarantee journalist Jorge Lanata´s physical integrity. We shall nevertheless keep striving to make public anything that may restrict the exercise of the guarantees set forth in the Argentine Constitution and in the International Treaties incorporated in it.

[1] “Limitaciones al ejercicio de la Libertad de Expresión Informe Anual /Argentina 2012”

Informe “Limitaciones al ejercicio de la Libertad de Expresión- Argentina 2013”

Informe “Limitaciones al ejercicio de la Libertad de Expresión- Argentina 2014”