An Argentine court has ordered journalist Santiago O’Donnell to surrender recordings of interviews with the former president's brother. (Photo: Pepe Mateos)

Argentine court orders journalist Santiago O’Donnell to turn over interviews of former president’s brother

Miami, January 6, 2022 – Argentine authorities should drop their order for journalist Santiago O’Donnell to surrender his interview recordings, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

O’Donnell, who wrote a 2020 book based on interviews with Mariano Macri, the brother of former President Mauricio Macri, has faced a court order since early 2021 to surrender recordings of his interviews as part of a civil case initiated by Mariano Macri, according to news reports and Damián Loreti, O’Donnell’s lawyer, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.

On December 15, 2021, O’Donnell’s appeal against the court order expired, his lawyer said.

O’Donnell has not handed over the recordings as of today, Loreti told CPJ. Refusal to comply could carry a fine of up to approximately $67,000 and authorities could seize the recordings, according to Article 329 of Argentina’s Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure.

“We are appalled by the recent Argentine court decision ordering journalist Santiago O’Donnell to hand over recordings of interviews he conducted with the former president’s brother,” said CPJ Latin America and the Caribbean Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick, in New York. “The ruling blatantly undermines press freedom, and sets a terrible precedent that is inconsistent with Argentina’s domestic and international obligations regarding freedom of expression and information.”

On December 23, 2020, Mariano Macri filed a petition to the National Court of First Instance in Civil Matters No. 6 requesting the recordings of his interviews so he could file a future civil lawsuit for damages against O’Donnell, according to those news reports, which did not specify the nature of that potential lawsuit.

CPJ emailed Mariano Macri’s lawyer, Juan Manuel Quintana, for comment and to inquire about details of the civil action, but did not receive any reply.

On February 7, 2021, the National Court of First Instance in Civil Matters No. 6 granted Macri’s petition, those reports said.

“In setting this precedent, the court is opening a very dangerous door,” Loreti said.

O’Donnell’s book, Brother: The Confession of Mariano Macri about the Plot of Power, Politics, Business, and Family Behind his Brother Mauricio, published in 2020, contains allegations of fraud involving members of the Macri family, according to the same reports.

The December 15 expiration of O’Donnell’s appeal cannot be further appealed, his lawyer said. Separately, O’Donnell’s attorneys filed a special motion to the Supreme Court on October 20, 2021, seeking to suspend the order; that motion is still pending, and there is no timeframe for the court’s decision, Loreti said.

CPJ called the National Court of First Instance in Civil Matters No. 6 for comment, but no one answered; when CPJ called the Supreme Court, an automated response asked to call back later.