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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Argentine reporters given police protection after receiving death threats



Three journalists were given police protection after receiving threats for publishing investigative pieces about a criminal organization that operates near Godoy Cruz, Mendoza. 

The journalists work for the newspaper El Sol and have covered the criminal group since 2012. In past articles, the journalists describe the group, known as “Yaqui’s Angels”, as a “small army of youths” between 15 and 20 years of age.

According to La Nación, the threat wasn’t received by the journalists or newspaper administrators but by the Intelligence Division of the Mendoza Police, who were alerted that Sandra Yaqueline Vargas, the alleged boss of the crime group, had ordered the killing of the journalists who exposed the group’s activities. Even though the threat was directed to the entire newspaper, the police determined that the most at-risk individuals were the three reporters who had investigated the group suspected of dealing drugs in the area.

Even though El Sol has been covering the criminal organization's activities since 2012, the week before receiving the threats, the newspaper published detailed descriptions of each known gang member. Included on that list were two of Vargas’ brothers, said La Nación.

The Argentine newspaper, Clarín, says that the names of the reporters under police protection since Thursday Feb. 13 have been withheld because of security reasons. 

Despite the threats, El Sol said they intend to keep investigating the criminal activities of the group. Jorge Hirschbrand, the director of El Sol, told Clarín that the work of the threatened reporters “was impeccable, even the police investigators were surprised by the quality and quantity of the information they found.”

According to Infobae, on Saturday Feb. 15, 48 hours after the threats were issued, the offices of El Sol were robbed by three armed men. The authorities don't believe the incident is related to the threats.

“They are people from another town who saw an opportunity. Right now there isn’t any sort of link, although we are alert in case any new facts arrive from the capital,” Claudia Rios, the prosecutor in charge of the case, told La Nación.

Even so, the robbery prompted the police to announce they would double their efforts to determine the seriousness of the threats and would possibly arrest Vargas, who has not yet been charged in the case.

On Tuesday Feb. 18, motivated in part by this case, the Argentine Association of Journalistic Entities (ADEPA) started an internet campaign asking the government to guarantee protection for press workers nationwide.



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