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Journalist threatened, knocked out by police while covering eviction in Orán

(FOPEA /IFEX) - On 27 May 2008, in the city of Orán, Salta province, in northwestern Argentina, the journalist Samuel Huerga was warned to stop filming, then struck hard on the head while he was covering a confrontation between evicted local residents and police infantry (Infantería). The journalist and two witnesses say the assailant was a member of the group carrying out the eviction.

Huerga, who works for Radio Cadena NOA radio station and the newspaper "Nuevo Diario", which is based in the city of Salta, capital of the province of the same name, was beaten on the head with a heavy object and rendered unconscious for several minutes. The assault took place at approximately 1:00 a.m. (local time) on 27 May, while Huerga was covering the confrontation between residents of La Canchita neighbourhood and local policemen.

Huerga told FOPEA that while he was filming with a night viewer, he saw several police beating a man whom he later identified as Valentín Mamaní - a municipal employee - first on the ground, then inside a van.

A policeman asked Huerga to stop filming and tried to cover the camera lens. Moments later, the journalist was struck with a heavy object, which cut him and caused him to lose consciousness for several minutes.

His camera recorded the firing by the policemen of rubber bullets at Huerga and his companions. A man helping Huerga was struck by at least a dozen bullets and fell.

Huerga and two witnesses identified the assailant as Captain Roberto Salto, of Regional Unit Number 20, based in Orán. FOPEA tried to contact Salto, but he is on medical leave. No response was received from the acting head of the Unit.

The police report on the confrontation, obtained by FOPEA, makes no reference to the injury to the journalist.

FOPEA has written to the provincial government, led by Governor Juan Manuel Urtubey, asking for a thorough investigation of the incident and the dismissal from his post of Captain Salto, if his guilt is proven. It also asked the infantry to implement institutional policies to ensure that such an episode never recurs.

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