The headquarters of the Argentine newspaper El Chubut were recently targeted in an arson and vandalism attack. (Photo: Diario El Chubut)

Argentine newspaper El Chubut offices torched, ransacked amid protests

Miami, December 23, 2021 — Argentine authorities should immediately investigate the recent attack on the headquarters of the El Chubut newspaper and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

At around 8:40 p.m. on December 20, a group of unidentified people gathered at the newspaper’s headquarters in the city of Trelew, in the southern province of Chubut, and threw rocks and firebombs into the building, breaking windows and setting several fires, according to news reports and El Chubut politics section chief Rubén Darío Giménez, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app.

The attackers entered the building, which also houses the outlet’s radio station, and ransacked it for several hours, damaging and stealing equipment and archival materials, Giménez said. Journalists and staff were evacuated by police, and no one was injured, he told CPJ.

“The violent attack on the Argentine daily El Chubut needs to be condemned in the strongest terms,” said CPJ Latin America and the Caribbean Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick, in New York. “Argentine authorities must ensure that all of the individuals who participated in this attack are identified and held responsible.” 

The attack took place amid protests against a new mining zoning ordinance, which provincial authorities passed on December 19, according to news reports. At least 16 buildings, including the offices of the Supreme Tribunal, were set on fire or damaged during the protests, those reports said.

“From within this legitimate and popular protest, there is a group that detaches itself and attacks the newspaper,” Giménez told CPJ. “This is an intentional and premeditated attack by a group that takes advantage of the protest to engage in violence.”

Hours before the demonstration, there had been calls on social media for people to gather in front of the newspaper’s offices, according to reporting by El Chubut. Neither Giménez nor reporting by El Chubut gave possible motives for the attack, or who might have been behind it.

The prosecutor general of Chubut announced an investigation into the attack on El Chubut, as well as the other buildings affected, according to press reports and that report by the newspaper. Police have not made any arrests, Giménez said.

CPJ called the Chubut prosecutor general’s office for comment, but no one answered.