by, Hillary Houston
Reporting the truth can mean life or death, but for a journalist, not reporting the truth means no life at all. Uki Goñi, world renowned journalist and author knows of this struggle all too well.
Recently, Goñi took the time to some shed light on what the real world of journalism is all about.
Six journalism students, including myself, were able to interview Goñi over lunch in the Palermo neighborhood of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Meeting with Goñi is a rare occasion for anyone, but for six journalism students from the University of Mississippi it was inspiration.
Lunch began like any other, over gnocchi and coffee Goñi spoke of his work, his past battles and future endeavors. No one at the table could have ever predicted the magnitude of his testimony.
He told of how he was born in Washington, D.C., but moved to Buenos Aires at the young age of 21. From there he worked for the Buenos Aires Herald. Most of his time at the Herald was occupied by trying to help report the mass amounts of information from the people affected by the Dirty War, a military dictatorship in Argentina from 1976-1983.
The Dirty War was a military campaign carried out by the Argentine government that maintained its power by kidnapping out anybody who challenged their authority. He explained that during these troubling times, his life was at stake. Those who opposed the government’s military campaign just “disappeared”.
Goñi worked with the mothers of “disappeared” trying to help in any way possible without causing more harm to himself and others.
Goñi had experiences with undercover government officers following, tapped phone calls and even death threats.
Going through such chaos during the first few years of his career, was quite the test. He recalled being a young journalist, terrified for his life and his fellow colleagues.
Luckily he survived to tell his story, but he still wonders what may have happened. Many of his friends, coworkers and informants were seen one day and then gone the next.
“I regret not getting more involved with the disappeared,” Goñi said. “But if I had, I probably wouldn’t be here today.”
Spending years writing for newspapers such as the Buenos Aires Herald and the New York Times, Goñi had quite the resume.
After jeopardizing his life for several years work, Goñi traded one evil for another. His observations of what went on during the Dirty War fascinated him. He questioned how humans could do such things to each other and how something so terrible could be kept quiet for so long.
With his knowledge of vile militant tactics and Argentine government, Goñi began to research the Argentine government’s aid in the escape of Nazi war criminals after WWII.
“Can it be a coincidence of what happened in my country’s past that allowed so many war criminals to come here?” Goñi asked. He wanted to understand how something like the Dirty War and hiding of Nazis could have ever happened.
Goñi’s worked for years trying to find the buried information both in Argentina and across the world. Many of sleepless nights and thousands of documents later he published his controversial book “The Real Odessa: Smuggling the Nazis to Perón’s Argentina.”
His book gives details such as dates, names, sources and government documents of the escape of Nazi war criminals in to Argentina. Outing multiple illegal governmental operations, historical lies and even the Catholic Church is an adventure to say the least.
“Considering the past and our struggles with the government, the Argentine people have slowly adapted the habitation of evil,” Goñi said. “Years ago, speaking out against the government meant life or death, so most people chose to not say anything.”
Goñi was one of the first to break the silence. Through it all he damaged his health, broke a few rules, ruined a couple of relationships and fought many of lawsuits after all was said and done.
To this day, Goñi is still criticized and attacked for his work. Rumors and speculations surround the truth behind the Dirty War and the Nazi hiding in Argentina.
Goñi defends is work with facts. He explained that there will always be people who will disagree with what he has said, but the facts don’t and cannot lie.
Goñi jokes about how a journalist’s life style is not easy an easy one. He advises to keep a sane mind by pursuing other leisure interests. For him, it is music.
Today, he plays with his band in local cult pubs around Buenos Aires, does freelance work for various medias, maintains his website and travels to speak to whoever is willing to listen and learn.