Journalist flees Argentina after reporting on prosecutor’s death

New York, January 26, 2015–The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned that Argentine journalist Damián Pachter fled the country early Saturday out of concern for his safety, according to news reports. Pachter broke the news on January 18 that Alberto Nisman, a prosecutor investigating the 1994 terrorist attack on Jewish cultural center AMIA, had been found dead the night before he was to testify about the attack.

In an article published on Sunday on the English-language website of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Pachter wrote that a trusted source told him that he was being surveilled and was in danger and should immediately leave the country. Pachter, who holds dual Argentine-Israeli citizenship, wrote the article from Israel and said he had no immediate plans to return to Argentina.

Pachter broke the news on Twitter that Nisman had been found dead from a gun wound in his apartment shortly before he was to testify about the latest developments in the AMIA case. Nisman had shocked the country the week before when he alleged that he had evidence linking President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and senior-level advisers to a plot to cover up involvement of the Iranian government in the attack in exchange for oil to alleviate the country’s energy crisis, according to news reports. The Argentine government has vehemently denied the accusations. Nisman’s death was first labeled a suicide by authorities but the president later wrote on Facebook that she did not believe Nisman had killed himself.

Pachter said after talking to his source he immediately made plans to leave the country without telling his editors at the English-language newspaper The Buenos Aires Herald. Pachter was accompanied to the airport by two local journalists who interviewed him before his departure and who he asked not to reveal his destination. The state news agency Telam reported on Saturday that Pachter had flown to Montevideo, Uruguay, and had a return ticket for February, citing the state airline Aerolíneas Argentinas. The agency published a screen shot of his flight itinerary, which was retweeted by the official Twitter account of the executive branch. Pachter wrote in the Haaretz article the return ticket was a ruse to disguise his real destination until he arrived safely.

“It is outrageous that the Argentine government would condone the publication of a journalist’s private flight information, particularly when that journalist believes he is at risk for reporting on an extremely sensitive issue of public interest,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas. “As the investigation of the Nisman case moves forward, Argentine authorities must ensure local journalists can do their jobs without fearing for their safety or reprisal.”