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Robert J. Cox , also known as Bob Cox (Hull, 1933), is a British journalist who served as editor of the Buenos Aires Herald newspaper, aimed at the British community in Argentina. Cox stood out for its value in the face of the military dictatorship that between 1976 and 1983 imposed a regime of State terrorism in that country. He himself was illegally detained and had to leave Argentina in 1979 before the imminence of his disappearance. Based in Charleston, South Carolina, United States, he became deputy editor of the Daily News and Courier, the principal medium of the group that owns the Buenos Aires Herald. In 2005, the Legislature of the City of Buenos Aires distinguished him for his courage as a journalist during the military dictatorship. In 2005, his wife, the Argentine Maud Daverio de Cox wrote a book about his life in Argentina during the years of the military dictatorship, entitled “Saved from Hell”.
In 2009, his son David Cox published the book Dirty secrets, dirty war. Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1976-1983: the exile of editor Robert J. Cox (published in Spanish as In honor of the truth: Memories from the exile of Robert Cox). Another version appeared in Buenos Aires in 2010: dirty war, dirty secrets.
Robert Cox arrived in Argentina in 1959, hired as an editor by the Buenos Aires Herald, a newspaper of the British community in Argentina written in English. At that time the Buenos Aires Herald did not publish news about Argentina even though it was written and published in the country, there was only one column, “La voz de la Argentina”, which was a selection of editorials from other newspapers. The editor preferred to talk about the British royal family and things like that.
Shortly after he met Maud Daverio, with whom he married and had a son, Peter, living in that country. His influence in the newspaper was such that it took him to completely modify its dynamics and design, transforming a small bulletin dedicated mainly to provide British information, in a respected newspaper, of which he was appointed director in 1968. Under his direction, the newspaper built the important building that owns in Azopardo street.
By his initiative, the Buenos Aires Herald was the first means of communication to openly and systematically inform in full 1976 that the military government was kidnapping people illegally and making them disappear. As a reporter he went personally to the rounds of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo and, also personally, found that the military used the crematoria of Chacarita cemetery to incinerate the bodies of the disappeared.
The day of the coup they called us to tell us that it was forbidden to publish about assaults, guerrilla actions or bodies found in the street. We discovered that the violence was the same and worse. And people started coming to the newspaper to report things. We also had our sources and foreign agencies. When it was the slaughter of the Pallottine priests, on the outside it was correctly published that it had been a group of the extreme right, but here all the newspapers said that it had been terrorism, the Montoneros. When people came to the newsroom to make a report, I asked them to submit a habeas corpus. The military prohibited the publication of news about kidnappings or corpses, without official confirmation. We took the habeas corpus as confirmation … I made two notes for the Post shortly after the coup. In one it said that it was not true that there was freedom of expression in Argentina because the newspapers had reached an agreement with the military not to publish certain information … What mattered was trying to save people. I went with lists of people and told them that I did not put anything in the diary if those people showed up. We were very lucky because some of those people were saved.
In 1977 he was illegally detained:
When they came, I was preparing a number about the birthday of the Queen of Holland. I made them wait while it was over, I called Maud, to warn him. I looked out the window and saw a Falcon and a Peugeot with a sliding roof, with the driver who looked like a Mexican bandit with crossed bandoliers. They entered Federal Coordination through a subsoil and as soon as I arrived I saw a large swastika on the wall. They put me in a cell, without clothes, a kind of tube. It was a really strong experience. I did not know, but when I was arrested there was strong international pressure. I had my contacts. Tex Harris, who was a fantastic guy, a US diplomat who had been sent by Jimmy Carter and Patricia Derian, moved a lot.
Since then he and his family lived permanently threatened, suffering an attack on his life, and his wife an attempted kidnapping. When the imminence of his disappearance or murder was finally evident, he left the country. The decision was made when one of his sons, Peter, received the following message from the military regime, clumsily pretending that it was a letter from Montoneros:
Dear Peter, we know that you are worried about the things that happen to the relatives of your friends and that you are afraid that they will also happen to you and your dad. But we do not eat raw guys with breakfast. Considering the fear that you have and that your dad is a high level journalist who is more useful to us alive than dead, we have decided to send you this little note as a warning. For this reason and in consideration of the work that your father is doing we offer (and also to all of you: Peter, Victoria, Robert, David and Ruth) the option of leaving the country in which they run the risk of being killed. Choose what you like best and tell “daddy” and “mummy” to sell your house, the cars and go to work in Paris in another newspaper of the Herald. You can also stay here, fighting for human rights, but I do not think that is what they prefer, neither their parents nor their uncles who are waiting for them in England for Christmas. A great revolutionary greeting for your dad.
When that happened, one of the maximum hierarchs of the regime, General Guillermo Suarez Mason made a toast for having achieved his expulsion.
It was June of 1979 when Cox managed to enter with an engraver to the office of the then Minister of the Interior of the government of Jorge Rafael Videla, Albano Harguindeguy. After a press conference, he managed to immortalize a conversation he had with the official: “There are sixty journalists missing,” the Herald director told the minister, to which he replied evasively: “Sixty? people who are involved in … ” Cox reiterated his question, but only got an ironic answer: “Nothing but sixty?”.
Since then he settled in Charleston, South Carolina, United States, where the Daily News and Courier newspaper is located, the principal medium of the group that owns the Buenos Aires Herald, for which he worked as an editor of the international section, covering Other news, civil war in El Salvador and Nicaragua. He was eventually appointed deputy editor of the newspaper.
In 2005 the Legislature of the City of Buenos Aires on the initiative of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Dr. Raúl Alberto Puy, distinguished him for his courage as a journalist during the military dictatorship. Cox received the award “on behalf of the disappeared journalists.”
In 2005, his wife, Maud Daverio de Cox wrote a book about his life in Argentina during the years of the military dictatorship, entitled “Saved from Hell”.
Every so often he has been living several months a year in Argentina, and in December 2012 he declared that in this country “there is freedom of expression”, but also a strong feeling that “at any moment that can change”. He was very critical of the president of Argentina, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, about democracy and how the Executive decided to use the Media Law to attack the Clarín newspaper. In this regard he said:
We already know what happens in a country when journalists can not talk. And that can not happen again (…) I was wondering if it is a democratic government, and obviously it is. And there is no doubt that one can speak openly in Argentina. But we all have the doubt that at any moment that will change (…) I want to think that there is no problem in the Government’s view on the importance of a totally free journalism. But at the same time, the attitudes of the Government are not those of a truly democratic government (…) There is a double language. When (the Government) talks about democracy, they are talking about the democracy that George Orwell described in Rebellion on the Farm and 1984. I really feel very upset with all this.
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