Courts examine role of dictatorship media
La Nueva Provincia owner to testify on Tuesday, Atlántida editorial also reported by victims
Vicente Gonzalo Massot, the owner of the daily La Nueva Provincia, will be appearing in court on Tuesday after a longstanding claim from human rights groups and the federal prosecutors who are investigating crimes against humanity in Bahía Blanca, in the south of Buenos Aires province. His statements will raise questions about the role the media played in legitimizing the last dictatorship’s killings and forced disappearances.
Last year, prosecutors Miguel Palazzani and José Nebbia indicted Massot and Mario Hipólito Gabrielli, La Nueva Provincia’s news editor — who passed away in July, 2013 — for the slayings of two print workers, Enrique Heinrich y Miguel Angel Loyola, but also for the role they played in the criminality of the dictatorship which came to power on March 24, 1976.
Even thoughLa Nueva Provincia was not the only media group accused of supporting state terrorism, its support was prominent.
When the prosecutors issued their indictment, they considered that the media group — which included the newspaper, a radio and a TV channel — was part of a conspiracy with the Army and the Navy aimed at annihilating part of the nation. To achieve that goal, the prosecutors believe, La Nueva Provincia played its particular role in propaganda in Bahía Blanca, and part of La Pampa and Río Negro provinces.
La Nueva Provincia not only supported the military government but also claimed that a military coup was necessary to “refound the Argentine nation.”
In May, 1973 — before then president-elect Héctor Cámpora took office — the daily published an editorial demanding military intervention.
“What are our armed men waiting for to acknowledge that Argentina is undergoing an internal war climate and to proceed unceremoniously?,” they said. Less than three years later, when the military came to power ousting María Estela Martínez de Perón, the daily celebrated: “The Armed Forces rule. Let’s refound the nation”.
On its pages, La Nueva Provincia repeatedly used words such as “enemies” and in 1977 warned in an editorial “not to confuse guerrilla with subversion,” making it clear that the repressors’ idea of the enemy was much broader.
The daily, which is currently directed by Massot, also made reference to other publications, such as the progressive La Opinión, which was then taken over by the dictatorship and its director tortured and taken to several clandestine detention centres in Buenos Aires province.
Jacobo Timerman was released after spending several months in concentration camps and spending time in a legal prison in Magdalena, as was proven on Thursday when the Defence Ministry handed over files to his son, Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman.
La Nueva Provincia objected in 1979 to the elder Timerman’s release in an editorial entitled: “Timerman is free. The government’s responsible,” in which the Massot family complained: “Impunity is the next step.”
On Tuesday, the owner of La Nueva Provincia, a newspaper which forms part of the Association of Argentine Press Entities (ADEPA), will have to appear before Judge Álvaro Sebastián Coleffi, who could order Massot’s arrest, on the request of the prosecutors.
Human rights groups have great expectations and they believe that this will be the first step towards unveiling what they consider to be the media’s complicity with the genocidal process.
Another iconic case
Although the Papel Prensa case — regarding the illegal transfer of the newsprint company during the dictatorship to the dailies Clarín, La Nación and La Razón— usually hits the headlines and although members of the Human Rights Secretariat complain that Judge Julián Ercolini is not making much progress in his investigation, there are other cases regarding the media which are being analyzed in court, such as the publishing house Atlántida’s role during those dark years.
As the Herald reported in November, Judge Sergio Torres — who is investigating the crimes committed in the Navy School of Mechanics (ESMA) clandestine detention centre — is to summon journalist Juan Botinelli for interviewing a person who was detained at that concentration camp. “The mother of a subversive man talks” was the title of the article in which Thelma Jara de Cabezas gave her testimony under force.
“Thelma told that story during the trial against the junta members in 1985 but nothing has happened yet,” said Alejandrina Barry in conversation with the Herald.
Alejandrina filed a criminal complaint in 2010 because the magazines Somos, Para Ti and Gente used her images to demonize her parents.
Alejandrina’s mother, Susana Mata, was with her in Montevideo when a task force from the ESMA kidnapped her. Photographers arrived after the abductions to take pictures of the two-year-old blonde girl.
“I filed the complaint because I know that businessmen were ideologically responsible for the genocide, particularly those who run the media,” the woman who is a member of Ceprodh human rights group said.
“They used me as part of the propaganda they issued to justify their horrendous crimes,” she added.
When she was 14 years old, Alejandrina read the three magazines and found her images but not her true story.
“Terror’s children,” one read and another added: “Alejandra (sic) is alone.” What the media did not mention was what had happened to Alejandrina’s parents.
“Cases involving enterprises are not making much progress and that’s an alarming situation,” Barry made clear, blaming the Kirchnerite administration and the judiciary for the delay.
“They have to be judged as genocidal perpetrators. That’s what they are,” she added.