June 7 is Journalists’ Day in Argentina. And although this is Argentina, there’s no day off for me or my Buenos Aires Herald colleagues.
That’s fine, I’m used to that as Herald staff only have three bank holidays off a year – December 24 and 31 and April 30. But on this day, which has existed since 1938, I just wanted to reflect on being a journalist.
On the wires yesterday, I read that 129 journalists were killed during Argentina’s last military dictatorship, including the journalist, writer and playwright Rodolfo Walsh (see photo), he in whose name Venezuela’s president Hugo Chávez was awarded a prize for services to popular journalism in April.
Walsh was killed in on San Juan and Entre Ríos avenues in 1977 a day after writing a Carta Abierta de un Escritor a la Junta Militar and not long after he sent it to various newspapers and news agencies.
Last week, I was at the doctor for bronchitis and she asked me about my work. I said I was a journalist for the Herald, and she called me “grosa“. I was highly embarrassed because frankly, all I have in common with Bob Cox or Andrew Graham-Yooll, those editors of the only Argentine paper to oppose the regime and publish exactly what was going on, is Latin America’s only English daily.
Bob Cox was editor of the Herald during Argentina’s last military dictatorship and he was forced into exile in 1979, but not before spending three years publishing stories about people being disappeared.
As Senator María Eugenia Estenssoro said at a 2010 tribute to the former editor and current contributor: “The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo found their voice in Cox as he was the only one who would listen to them and publish their stories, not only in the Herald but internationally as well,” she said. “His unconditional commitment to democracy, freedom of expression and human rights is the reason he is receiving this Commemorative Medal.”
Back to the present day and in 2011, to date, 19 journalists have been killed, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Look, I’ve never been in war zone, far from it. The closest I’ve got – and it’s distant – is covering a squatters’ housing crisis in Villa Soldati and going to an open-casket wake in a slum. But while we’re all merrily Tweeting Feliz día del Periodista, I just wanted to take a minute to remember those journalists who have been killed on the front line in order to meet a deadline.