A demonstrator waves an Argentine flag during a protest against a judicial reform bill announced by the government, in Buenos Aires, on August 1, 2020. An Argentine court charged journalist Daniel Santoro with illicit association and espionage on October 21, 2020. (AFP/Alejandro Pagni)

Argentine court charges journalist Daniel Santoro with illicit association, espionage

New York, October 21, 2020 — The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on Argentine authorities to drop criminal charges against journalist Daniel Santoro and ensure criminal investigations do not threaten journalists’ ability to work.

In a decision released this morning, Judge Alejo Ramos Padilla of the Federal Court of Dolores, in Buenos Aires province, charged Santoro–an investigative journalist at national daily Clarín–with belonging to an “illicit association dedicated to illegal espionage” and carrying out “prohibited intelligence actions,” according to the court document, which CPJ reviewed. Last year, the court subpoenaed Santoro’s phone records and summoned him to appear as part of an investigation alleging that he participated in a scheme that sought to extort businesspeople by threatening negative news coverage, CPJ documented at the time. Today’s decision formally closed that investigation and brought new charges against several individuals, including Santoro.

The allegations stem from Santoro’s connections with Marcelo D’Alessio, an Argentine national who arranged at least one interview with a subject for one of Santoro’s articles and who has been charged with extortion, according to the court documents. Santoro has repeatedly denied any criminal misconduct and told CPJ via phone last year that D’Alessio was a journalistic source.

“Holding journalists liable for their sources’ actions sets a deeply troubling precedent that opens the door to criminal charges against investigative journalists working to uncover wrongdoing,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick. “Argentine authorities should drop the criminal charges against Daniel Santoro and ensure criminal investigations do not threaten press freedom.”