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Journalist threatened, harassed in Chos Malal, allegedly by Neuquén provincial police

(FOPEA /IFEX) - FOPEA expresses its concern about the situation confronting journalist Juan Carlos Parada, who has received at least two strongly-worded threats and been the target of other acts of aggression in the last two months. Parada is a radio programme host and a "Diario Río Negro" newspaper correspondent in the city of Chos Malal, Neuquén province, located in Argentina's Patagonia region.

The situation is serious, in view of the fact that it has occurred in a small city in the relatively isolated region of Patagonia, and due to indications that Neuquén provincial police may be tied to the incidents.

On 10 September 2008, a threatening message was left on Parada's answering machine. The caller said, "How are you, Mr. Juan Carlos? I want to tell you something. Your deadline is up on 15 September. Remember that you'll be hurting your family if you don't leave the radio station. Do it, or you'll pay a heavy, ugly price." He also received another threatening call on 15 July. As well, companies that advertise their products or services on his programme also received messages warning them to stop their ads. Parada says that he also has strong evidence that he is being kept under surveillance while in his home; he adds that his car has been tampered with, in a manner similar to tactics employed by the mafia.

Parada says that these incidents may be related to various investigations of serious misconduct on the part of the police, although he, like the prosecutor handling the case - Alejandro Casaña - does not rule out the possibility that the incidents may be related to other critical reporting he has engaged in. Sub-Commissioner Nélson Flores, in charge of police station 24 in Chos Malal, told FOPEA that the police force's internal affairs department is carrying out an investigation.

Parada has asked for the investigation to be sped up. In response, Casaña told FOPEA that the police are comparing the voices in the recorded threats with those of the alleged suspects, which is inevitably time- consuming.
FOPEA urges the local and provincial authorities to take measures to protect Parada and his family, in order to safeguard freedom of expression in both Chos Malal and the entire region.

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