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Journalist assaulted, detained by police

(FOPEA /IFEX) - FOPEA condemns the inexcusable verbal and physical attack on and unjustified detention of Leonardo Vallejos, a journalist with Radio Fénix. Those responsible were the La Rioja 4th division provincial police in the Argentinean central-western province of La Rioja.

On 12 December 2008, Vallejos was detained for two hours, for no apparent reason, under the orders of the deputy chief of the 4th division provincial police, Jovino Olivera. Vallejos was in the 4th division premises to get information on the investigation of a rape of a 14-year-old minor.

According to Vallejos, Olivera refused to give him any information and in response to his insistence, the police officer insulted Vallejos and asked him to leave. When Olivera noticed that Vallejos was filming him, he hit Vallejos and tried to take away his mobile phone and camera. Vallejos tried to relate what was going on to Radio Fénix, but he was immediately taken in for "disrespecting authority". His colleague, Ximena Marenco, went to the police station to get information on Vallejos's situation, but the police avoided her questions and mocked her.

In a Radio Fénix interview with Juan José Alvarez, a member of parliament, Vallejos's situation was casually mentioned and this led to Alvarez's intervention and the release of Vallejos.

After Vallejos was let go, Roberto Leguiza, the head of the provincial police's 1st division in La Rioja (which shares a building with the 4th division) apologized for the incident and offered his support to Vallejos for any actions he wishes to carry out.

The video taken by Vallejo can be seen on Radio Fénix's website ( http://www.fenix951.com.ar ).

FOPEA has communicated with the commissioner general of La Rioja provincial police, Luis César Angulo, who said that "as these events were taking place and I became aware of the fact that a verbal detention order had been issued against the journalist, I ordered the immediate cancellation of that order." Angulo said that the detention was unjustifiable and that their internal affairs department is investigating the incident and considering a possible sanction against Olivera.

The inappropriate way in which a police officer acted in response to a journalist's request for information cannot be solely attributed to the excesses of one official. This is why FOPEA demands that Luis Beder Herrera, governor of La Rioja, develop a policy for his security forces, specifically one that deals with their relationship with the press.

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