Argentine journalist investigated for crimes during last military dictatorship
Vicente Massot, owner and director of the conservative, Bahia Blanca-based newspaper, La Nueva Provincia, testified before a federal judge in Buenos Aires on Mar. 8 about his alleged involvement in crimes against humanity during the last military dictatorship in Argentina (1976-1983).
Massot is accused of colluding with military personnel to eradicate a press workers' union and is implicated in the homicide of union members Enrique Heinrich and Miguel Angel Loyola. Massot allegedly instigated the crime, collaborated in it and covered up the truth about the kidnapping, torture and murder of the other 35 members of that group.
Heinrich and Loyola were union delegates and had organized several strikes, according to El País. Along with their murder, the prosecution also accuses Massot of publishing in his newspaper that “alleged left-wing terrorists had died in clashes” when they had actually been executed by armed forces. Massot denied the accusation and having any involvement or responsibility in the crimes.
“There is a great expectation in the city and the country, because this is the first time in the news media that the director of a newspaper is called to testify in order to explain his involvement in acts connected with crimes against humanity,” said Walter Larrea, an attorney for the Permanent Association for Human Rights (APDH) in Bahia Blanca. “For the first time in a cause related to the worst crimes in Argentine history a representative of a news media outlet, a civilian, has to present himself before a judge,” he added.
La Nueva Provincia (LNP), along with most newspapers in Argentina at the time, supported the dictatorship, but unlike the other dailies, LNP and Massot continued to justify the military regime’s actions even after the return of democracy to the country. Massot, who worked as a journalist during the dictatorship, defended some crimes as “inevitable excesses,” El País reported.
During former president Carlos Menem’s administration (1989-1999), Massot also served as vice-minister of Government Defense, a position he had to resign from after publicly defending torture. Larrea, APDH’s lawyer, said that LNP “has not changed the editorial line it maintained in ’76, and continues to refer disdainfully to the national government, always at the edge of illegality on how they inform society.”
Massot was accused in 2013, but the First Federal Judge of Bahia Blanca Santiago Martinez rejected the prosecutors’ requests for detention. Massot put himself at the disposal of the court to clear up what was necessary.
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