Hackers obtain journalists’ e-mail exchanges with sources

New York, May 23, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by reports that unidentified hackers have broken into the e-mail accounts of several prominent journalists and distributed their private conversations with sources, including public officials, to the reporters’ contacts.

On May 11, Daniel Santoro, a senior investigative reporter with Argentina’s largest daily Clarín, reported that an off-the-record interview with judge Daniel Rafecas on a major drug trafficking case was stolen and copied to the lawyer of one of the defendants. Santoro has filed a complaint before federal judge Guillermo Montenegro alleging a violation of the confidentiality of sources.

On May 22, Ernesto Tenembaum, a reporter with Radio Mitre in Buenos Aires, told CPJ that messages had been sent from his e-mail address without his knowledge to his contacts. The messages contained off-the-record exchanges between Tenembaum and several sources, including officials and judges.

Luis Majul, who hosts the weekly show “La Cornisa” for television station América TV, said that on May 21 a hacker sent an e-mail from his Yahoo account to his contacts calling for a boycott of Clarín. The message revealed the usernames and passwords of more than 20 Argentine reporters and media executives.

“This is not the work of a lone hacker, I believe there is a structure behind it with the intent of generating confusion,” Majul told CPJ. He said he would file a complaint with judge Montenegro. Majul and other journalists said they believed that the hacking was carried out by someone who had worked for the local intelligence service. A senior government official denied in a radio interview that the intelligence services were involved.

“Such electronic theft is a clear violation of our colleagues’ privacy and appears to be an attempt to undermine their work as journalists,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “We urge authorities to conduct a thorough investigation to determine who is behind this hacking.”