Argentine government: Ex-officials spied on journalists

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentina’s intelligence agency says the administration of previous President Maurico Macri spied on more than 400 journalists, and officials have released a document they say is evidence of the claim.

An Excel spreadsheet presented to courts on Friday and made public Sunday by the president’s office listed 402 journalists who apparently had applied for accreditation to cover summits of the World Trade Organization or Group of 20 that were being scheduled in 2018 by the Macri administration.

The spreadsheet contained brief references to the policial or social stances of some of the journalists, many gleaned from social media posts, though most had no comment at all, or merely noted that the person worked for a small news outlet.

Ten of those listed were staffers or freelancers who worked for The Associated Press. Also listed were journalists for international media such as Reuters, Bloomberg, AFP and CNN.

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The document was filed in support of a federal prosecutor’s complaint accusing the former leadership of Argentina’s Federal Intelligence Agency of domestic espionage without a judicial order.

A person who had been a spokesperson for Macri said he was no longer working for him, and a spokesperson for the party of former Security Minister Patricia Bullrich said she was not on duty and hung up.

The prosecutor’s office said the new chief of the intelligence agency, Cristina Cañamo, reported finding a computer hard drive with evidence of illegal spying on emails of academics, journalists and social and political workers during Macri’s term from 2015 to 2019.

Cañamo said the files had information, such as a journalist’s stance toward the government, with “nothing to do with the content of the event” for which the investigation was based.

The Argentine Journalism Forum said on Twitter that it is following the case “with attention and concern” and said “these practices are intollñerable in a democracy.”

During Macri’s own presidency, legal authorities opened numerous investigations into alleged corruption involving former President Cristina Fernández, who is now vice president. Those have been stalled in part by difficulties in holding hearings under pandemic restrictions.

Macri is also under investigation over government handling of a debt owed by one of his family’s businesses, of a wind-farm contract and campaign financing.

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