Argentine authorities raid news outlet and confiscate materials

New York, October 30, 2014–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Tuesday’s raid by Argentine police on the offices of La Brújula 24, a radio station and news website, in which the outlet’s journalistic materials were confiscated.

Police arrived at La Brújula 24’s offices in the city of Bahía Blanca in Buenos Aires province Tuesday morning with a court order signed by federal Judge Santiago Ulpiano Martínez, one of the outlet’s directors, Germán Sasso, told local reporters.

Authorities were searching for information on computers, thumb drives, and other journalistic materials related to recordings of telephone calls involving businessman Juan Ignacio Suris, who has been imprisoned on charges of money laundering and ties to drug trafficking, according to La Brújula 24. He denied the charges and said he was “framed,” according to news reports. Sasso told reporters that since February the outlet had been airing and publishing parts of Suris’s conversations, which the government obtained via wiretaps and which are being used in the case against Suris and several other powerful Argentine businessmen. The recordings also implicate police and government officials. La Brújula 24 did not say how it obtained the recordings.

A few hours after the raid, Judge Martínez said in a press release that the order to carry out the operation came from the Attorney General’s office and was intended to investigate the source of the leaked recordings, according to news reports.

“Sending in a team of police officers to seize journalistic material before publication and to force the revelation of confidential sources violates basic principles of press freedom protected by Argentine law,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas. “We call on Argentine authorities to return all the confiscated material and allow La Brújula 24 to continue reporting on a case of public interest without further obstruction or harassment.”

La Brújula 24 published a recording on Tuesday, in which an unidentified alleged drug trafficker talks about his “friendship” with a local judge. In the days before the raid, the radio station had been promoting the broadcast, Sasso told reporters. The raid occurred shortly before the recordings were scheduled to be aired.

Sasso said the outlet had stored copies of the recordings in other locations, according to news reports. He condemned the move by authorities to force La Brújula 24 to reveal its source for the recordings, which he said violated constitutional protections for journalists.