Argentina says journalists safe after one flees, fearing for life

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 26, 2015 9:11 AM

By Sarah Marsh

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina's cabinet chief on Monday said journalists could work safely in the country after the reporter who broke the news of the mysterious death of a state prosecutor fled to Israel, saying he feared for his life under the current government.

On Jan. 18, Damian Pachter was the first to report that prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who was investigating the deadly 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, had been found dead in his apartment from a gunshot wound to the head.

The death of Nisman the day before he was to testify in Congress about his findings has rocked Argentina, sparking various conspiracy theories.

The flight of Pachter, who said his phones were tapped and he was being followed, is the latest twist in the tale.

"In Argentina there is total security for all journalists for them to carry out their profession in the name of freedom of expression," Argentine cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich told a regular news conference.

"For sure, there are strong tensions in terms of opinions ... but with the most absolute freedom of expression, and there is no type of obstacle for any reporter to express whatever he thinks."

Nisman was found dead late on Jan. 18, a gunshot wound to his head and a 22-caliber pistol by his side along with a single shell casing.

He had been scheduled to appear before Congress the following day to answer questions about his allegation that President Cristina Fernandez conspired to derail his investigation of the attack.

The authorities originally said evidence suggested the prosecutor had killed himself, but Fernandez later said the death was not a suicide.

She did not say who killed him, and no one has been arrested. Social media was seething with conspiracy theories, some pointing at Fernandez and her government.

The government says it suspects rogue agents from its own intelligence services.

Pachter told website Infobae that he was leaving "because my life is in danger.

"I'm going to come back to this country when my sources tell me the conditions have changed. I don't think that will be during this government."

On Sunday he told Israeli daily Haaretz that he thought he had been followed last week by an Argentine intelligence officer and had a photo of the man.

Capitanich said Pachter should publish the photo "to see if it is or not is an agent of intelligence."

(Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)