Why he fled Argentina

The death of Alberto Nisman under suspicious circumstances has rocked Argentina and raised serious doubts about the government. The AP roundup from Buenos Aires reports that “Death of prosecutor shakes faith in president, government institutions in Argentina.”

Journalist Damian Pachter broke the story of Nisman’s death last week. In the most recent chapter of the story, Pachter has fled Argentina for Israel out of concerns for his safety. Haaretz has published Pachter’s column “Why I fled Argentina after breaking the story of Alberto Nisman’s death.” (Access to the column may require registration, but it also accessible via Google here.)

Pachter contributes an important thread to the story. Those who have followed the story so far will want to attend to this:

So here they are, the craziest 48 hours of my life.

When my source gave me the scoop on Alberto Nisman’s death, I was writing a piece on the special prosecutor’s accusations against President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, her (Jewish) Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman, two pro-Iran “social activists” and parliamentarian Andrés Larroque. I learned that Nisman had been shot dead in his home.

The vetting process wasn’t too tough because of my source’s incredible attention to detail. His name will never be revealed.

Two things stood in my mind: my source’s safety and people’s right to know what happened that day, though not necessarily in that order.

Of course, for both speed and the contagion effect, Twitter was the way to go. The information was so solid I never doubted my source, despite my one or two colleagues who doubted me because I only had 420 Twitter followers — a number now eclipsing 10,000.

As the night went on, journalists contacted me in order to get the news from me even more directly. The first to do so was Gabriel Bracesco.

Once I tweeted that Nisman had died, hundreds of people quickly retweeted the news and started following me. That was my first of many sleepless days.

“You just broke the best story in decades,” lots of people said. “You’re crazy,” was another take. Either way, nobody questioned that the situation was very grave.

The following days were marked by a government trying to create an official story. First, the head of state suggested a “suicide hypothesis,” then a mysterious murder. They of course were not to blame. In anything.

That week I received several messages from one of my oldest and best sources. He urged me to visit him, but in those crazy days I underestimated his proposal.

On Friday I was working at the Buenos Aires Herald.com newsroom when a colleague from the BBC urged me to look at the state news agency’s story on Nisman’s death. The piece had some serious typos but the message was even stranger: The agency quoted a supposed tweet of mine that I never wrote.

Pachter then takes a bus to meet up with his source in a town several hours outside Buenos Aires. Upon his arrival he finds that he is being followed by a man he believes to be an intelligence agent. His source arrives and snaps a photo of the agent. “I then had to consider the best thing to do,” Pachter writes, “because when an Argentine intelligence agent is on your tail, it’s never good news. He didn’t just want to have a coffee with me, that’s for sure.”

Pachter decided to leave Argentina, buying a ticket from Buenos Aires with the destination of Israel via Montevideo and Madrid. He says he kept a low profile to evade security forces, adding this:

After I left Argentina I found out that the government was still publishing wrong information about me on social media. The Twitter feed of Casa Rosada, the Argentine presidential palace, posted the details of the airline ticket I had bought, and claimed that I intended to return to Argentina by February 2 — in other words, I hadn’t really fled the country. In fact, my return date is in December.

Haaretz caption: A tweet from the Presidential Palace showing Pachter’s flight itinerary.

Whole thing here.

As I wrote yesterday, borrowing from Lewis Carroll: curiouser and curiouser.

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