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Journalists assaulted while covering political events, one receives death threat

(FOPEA /IFEX) - The following is an 8 May 2007 statement from FOPEA, an interim member of IFEX:

Journalists attacked during coverage of political protests

On May 8 2007, freelance photographer Juan Bolaños was assaulted by security forces while covering a protest against the provincial government in Rio Gallegos, a city in Santa Cruz province in Argentina's southern Patagonian region.

In a separate incident, in the midst of an increasingly tense political situation at the national level, on 25 April supporters of a candidate for governor of Buenos Aires province, in the central region of the country, harassed Javier Giannini, a journalist from the city of Lomas de Zamora.

In the early hours of 8 May, Bolaños was in Rio Gallegos covering a protest march that was advancing towards the house belonging to President Nestor Kircher, a former governor of Santa Cruz province. A squad of national police attempted to break up the march and one of its members grabbed Bolaños, threw him to the ground and hit him. The police officer unsuccessfully attempted to seize the photographer's camera. Bolaños also said that he was attacked by a government secretary, Aliro Andrade.

Indicative of the overall context in which this incident took place, the majority of journalists covering the on-going political crisis in the province were excluded from the 7 May press conference at which the resignation of the governor of Santa Cruz, Carlos Sancho, was announced.

In a separate incident, on 25 April in the town of Lomas de Zamora in Buenos Aires province, Javier Giannini, a journalist from FM Voces radio station, was covering a public appearance by Juan Carlos Blumberg, candidate for the governorship of Buenos Aires province. On asking a question that Blumberg's followers deemed to be aggressive, the candidate's supporters began harassing and threatening the journalist, and even kicked him. In an e-mail message Giannini stated that, on arriving home several hours later, his wife informed him that she had received telephoned death threats. When approached by FOPEA, the journalist said he preferred to consider the incident closed.

FOPEA condemns the two incidents and expresses its solidarity with the journalists. Regarding the situation in Santa Cruz, FOPEA has urged the provincial legislator who has taken over the Executive Branch of Santa Cruz Province, Daniel Peralta, to provide assurances of "absolute respect for press freedom and for the right of journalists to cover, without restriction, all events of public interest, and to guarantee within the provincial territory the safety of the men and women of the press."

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