The Casa Rosada Presidential Palace is seen in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on May 21, 2020. An audit recently revealed that Argentine intelligence officers profiled hundreds of journalists. (Reuters/Agustin Marcarian)

Audit finds that Argentine intelligence services compiled files on hundreds of journalists

New York, June 16, 2020 – Argentine authorities should conduct a transparent and impartial investigation into allegations that intelligence agents compiled dossiers of journalists in 2017 and 2018, and should ensure that such programs are not conducted in the future, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On June 5, a federal prosecutor conducting an audit of Argentina’s Federal Intelligence Agency presented evidence to the Eleventh Federal Criminal and Correctional Court, which revealed that the agency had compiled profiles on 403 journalists seeking accreditation to cover major international summits held in Buenos Aires in 2017 and 2018, according to news reports and a statement by the Argentine Journalism Forum, a local press group. The profiles were assembled for journalists seeking to cover the 2017 World Trade Organization’s Ministerial Conference, the 2018 G-20 Summit, and other international events, according to those reports.

Agents profiled more than 300 media workers from domestic outlets including Infobae, Clarín, Crónica TV, Radio Nacional, and La Nación, as well as more than 60 working for international outlets including The Associated Press, Reuters, Al-Jazeera, Bloomberg, Agence France-Presse, and CNN, according to a report by local news website El Destape, which published a portion of the profiles.

Some of the profiles were highlighted in yellow, signifying that a journalist had a “critical political posture” towards then-President Mauricio Macri’s administration, according to that report. In an interview with AFP, an anonymous government source described the files as “ideological and political profiles” of journalists.

“The standard act of seeking accreditation to cover events of international interest does not give intelligence services any reason to monitor journalists’ personal opinions and activities,” said CPJ Central and South Americas Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick. “Argentine officials must conduct a transparent investigation into the extent of the Federal Intelligence Agency’s profiling operation and ensure that this surveillance of journalists has come to an end.”

The profiles included journalists’ names, photos, and employers, and many included information apparently collected from social media profiles and posts, including their expressed opinions on political issues or involvement with political or civil society groups, with a particular emphasis on support for movements against gender violence, according to El Destape.

The profiles were presented to the court by Cristina Caamaño, a federal prosecutor who was appointed by President Alberto Fernandez in December 2019 to oversee an audit of the Federal Intelligence Agency, according to local newspaper Perfil. The profiles were discovered on January 24 in a safe in the office of the agency’s former director of counterintelligence, according to that report.

CPJ was unable to find a contact information for the Federal Intelligence Agency. CPJ emailed the national prosecutor’s office, which is overseeing the investigation, for comment, but did not immediately receive any response.