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Argentina ex-president Macri accused of spying on 400 journalists

Many journalists were on a list to be probed in relation to the G20 and World Trade Organization summits, AFP reports.

Argentina’s Federal Intelligence Agency (AFI) has called for an investigation into former President Mauricio Macri for allegedly spying on more than 400 journalists, a source told AFP news agency.

Dozens of foreign journalists, including several representing AFP, appeared on a list of people to be investigated in relation to the G20 and World Trade Organization (WTO) summits held in Buenos Aires in recent years.

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“The complaint was lodged on Friday and tomorrow (Monday) all the evidence will be presented,” the official source told AFP on condition of anonymity on Sunday.

Some 100 academics, businesspeople and prominent figures from civil society also appeared on the list.

The documents relating to the case were found in three dossiers named “2017”, “G20 Journalists” and “Miscellaneous”, in a safe in the office of the AFI’s former director of counterintelligence.

Buenos Aires hosted the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference in 2017 and the 13th G20 Summit a year later.

“The investigation into the journalists was straightforward. They dug up information from social media, and that way built an ideological and political profile,” said the source.

The complaint was lodged by Cristina Caamano, who has been tasked by centre-left President Alberto Fernandez to carry out an audit of AFI as part of a reorganisation process.

According to the complaint, the profile information included “political preferences, social media posts, sympathy for feminist groups, or political and/or cultural content among others.”

The comments included whether or not “they were critical of the current government” of Macri, who held office from 2015-2019.

Other comments referred to “showing affinity for Peronism,” Fernandez’s political movement that was in opposition at the time, “supporting the government”, “asking on Facebook for the liberation of Lula”, Brazil’s socialist former president who was in jail at the time but has since been released, or if they “signed a petition for legalised abortion”.

Each profile was marked in either green, yellow or red, supposedly an indication aimed at assisting the foreign affairs ministry in the accreditation processes for the WTO and G20 events.

‘Inadmissible’

Caamano has asked for an investigation to be opened against Gustavo Arribas, the former AFI director, and his deputy Silvina Majdalani, as well as Macri as the person “responsible for setting strategic guidelines and the objectives of national intelligence policy”.

The complaint states that the background checks on journalists were “neither ordered nor authorized by any magistrate”.

The foreign correspondents association hit out at Macri for the “inadmissible” investigations, while two Argentine press unions also blasted the former administration.

The dossier relating to the WTO conference was more exhaustive and included information on businesspeople, trade unionists and social leaders, listing personal details such as salaries and wealth.

This is not the first time Macri has been investigated for alleged spying.

He is currently under investigation for spying during his presidency on political allies and opponents, including former president Cristina Kirchner and Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Rodriguez Larreta.

He was prosecuted for spying while mayor of Buenos Aires, a post he held from 2007 to 2015, but that case was dismissed two weeks after he assumed the presidency.

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