A Buenos Aires court has barred community news channel La Retaguardia from streaming a trial for crimes against humanity on its YouTube channel. The prohibition followed a request from the lawyer of Horacio Luis Ferrari, a former navy officer accused of homicide, torture and kidnapping.
Ferrari is being tried for crimes committed against around 240 victims between 1977 and 1978 at Argentina’s Navy School of Mechanics (ESMA, by its Spanish initials), the largest clandestine torture and extermination center during the country’s last dictatorship.
La Retaguardia has been covering the Argentine dictatorship’s crimes against humanity for the past 20 years, and has been transmitting the trials on YouTube since 2020, when courts first adopted virtual and hybrid formats because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To survivors of the dictatorship’s brutality, their transmissions are vital. “There have been survivors who identified their torturer or kidnaper thanks to our transmission,” said the channel’s co-founder, Fernando Tebele.
The outlet had been streaming the “ESMA VIII” trial since it began on October 4 via Zoom. However, for the fourth hearing, which is taking place on Monday, the court canceled the channel’s authorization to stream the trial from the Zoom meeting.
Defense lawyer Guillermo Jesús Fanego was the one who requested the bar on La Retaguardia. Fanego is known for his denialist views about Argentina’s dictatorship.
Tebele pointed out to the Herald that the Code of Criminal Procedure says media can be present in any trial per request. Article 287 of the code states that if someone who is participating in a hearing doesn’t want their voice or image to be displayed for security reasons or because they’re ashamed, the court can require their image and voice to be distorted, instead of blocking the transmission entirely.
“The court said [their decision] doesn’t go against press freedom because we can just stream from their channel,” Tebele said. According to the court, the requirement that the trial be public is met because it will be streamed on the judiciary’s YouTube channel.
But unlike the judiciary’s YouTube transmission, which only shows the Zoom calls in gallery mode, Tebele and his colleagues show the full image of the defendants, which has helped survivors to recognize them.
Now, they will only be able to reproduce the judiciary’s stream for this particular trial. “It’s not a minor thing where we take the images from. We choose what to show with a journalistic approach,” Tebele said. “We consider this to be censorship.”