A Universal History of Infamy of the world press had not yet been written. Argentines would learn a good lesson reading the chapter “78 World Cup”.
In terms of the criminal responsibility of civilians in times of the dictatorship the performance of our journalism in those days was criminal
If at any moment the Argentine press filled its quota of obedience, of concealment, and of political embrace of the genocide it was during June of 1978.
Just one single Argentine journalist questioned the realization of the World Cup. He was a sports journalist who, luckily for the dictatorship, died weeks before the opening match. Dante Panzeri, who died on April 14, 1978, kept questioning the organization of the World Cup in Argentina, basing his criticism only on the waste of money that would empty the state’s budget.
He was so right. Six years after the championship, when the prosecutor of Administrative Investigations, Ricardo Molinas, wanted to find out how much it had cost to host the 78 World Cup, he came to the conclusion that it was impossible to know. He didn´t find balance sheets or documents, just chaos. The dictatorial Argentina had consummated a World Cup that filled millions of pockets: economic, media, and military power.
Returning to journalists, a name and a surname earned the place of dishonor and reproach forever. José María Muñoz, known as “the Reporter of America”, did nothing but encourage the exaltation of order and the work of the de facto government of Jorge Rafael Videla to point out, in each moment he had on Radio Rivadavia, that the organization and the triumph in the 78 World Cup was the product of a country “right and human”.
There were many like Muñoz. Thousands. Millions. The “muñozista” speech bloomed in phrases and thoughts that emphasized “we have to show the world that Argentina is a land of peace”, “we are going to show the world that here the things said in Europe don´t happen”. This speech was found in all the newsrooms, radios and TV channels.
The sections dedicated to the vernacular policy of the national and provincial media took the World Cup as their own flag and the main pens and owners of the microphone used it to rant about those who made complaints about repression and genocide in the country.
The second famous face after Muñoz was that of Bernardo Neustadt, owner of the political screen at that time thanks to the benefit of the monopoly that his friends Videla, Emilio Massera, and Orlando Agosti gave him.
Neustadt was a commentator Argentines matches on National Radio and during the week he hammered away with his Tiempo Nueva (New Time) show. He invited there the main supporters of the murderous military junta. Thus, in the midst of 78 World Cup, he interviewed the former Minister of Foreign Affairs Henry Kissinger and encouraged him to criticize the international media that spoke of the concentration camps in Argentina. Here, a sample of the Neustadt style of 1978:
Neustadt: The New York Times publishes Montonero´s paid announcements. With that, it informs the public opinion of the United States, and I imagine, also the US government. An important Argentinean publisher wanted to publish eight pages in L'Express and Paris Match about the Argentine reality. And they didn´t accept it, although they also intended to pay for that publication. Kissinger, what's wrong with the press in the world?
Joaquín Morales Solá worked in Clarín. He was the favorite Tucuman chronicler of the “general of death”, Antonio Domingo Bussi, who had recommended him from Tucumán to manage the most important section of Ernestina Herrera de Noble's newspaper. In the times of the World Cup, Morales Solá supervised the column of weekly analysis where it was written, after the opening of the World Cup: “The Argentines had the opportunity to see President Videla in his first massive event who improvised a brief conciliatory and pacifist speech.”
La Nación and Editorial Atlántida, which had Samuel "Chiche" Gelblung as a pro-Videla militant, supported Clarín in the adventures of the genocidal stimulus. Another of the deniers of state terrorism in 1978 was Jorge Fontevecchia, now head of Perfil media group, who had been appointed by his father, the owner of the publishing house, as director of the magazine La Semana (The Week). The young Fontevecchia wrote the column “Open letter to a European journalist”: “And, please, don´t come to talk about concentration camps, clandestine killings, or night terror. We still have the pleasure of going out at night and returning home at dawn. We live unarmed. And that happens in South America. Here we don´t kill the 'European settlers'. Don´t confuse us with Zaire or Angola. We are so proud it did not even occur to us to call the Cubans for help.”
The military and the task forces never felt more comfortable than in those times of the World Cup. The whole society received and repeated the same discourse, trusting in the honesty of a journalism to which time later the mask would fall