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Official threatens journalist Mario Otero, other San Luis journalists who criticise his children

(FOPEA /IFEX) - FOPEA is concerned about an incident involving journalist Mario Otero, presenter of the programme "Nada Secreto", which is transmitted on Radio Universidad de San Luis (in the capital of San Luis province in central west Argentina). Otero was insulted and threatened with death on 9 February 2009 in the middle of the street in the centre of the capital by the president of a local council Oscar Di Sisto, who is also a member of the ruling party.

Otero explained to FOPEA that "we met on the sidewalk, greeted each other, Di Sisto called me over, shook my hand and we spoke briefly. Then he threatened to rip my head off if I referred to his children on my radio programme". Di Sisto told FOPEA that he told Otero "I am going to rip your head off," but he said that he was going through some difficult personal issues at the time and that Otero had greeted him ironically.

Otero maintains that "Di Sisto is mad because last year on Radio Universidad there was a reference made (not by me, and this can be verified by the station's archives of taped programmes) to the use of railroad land by a company whose property Di Sisto gave to his children. After this happened, as well as using the media to defame me via the work of my own colleagues, I received warnings and the news that he had had to restrain his children to stop them from coming after me. Despite his obvious attempts to intimidate me, I didn't take these events seriously," the journalist said.

According to Di Sisto, "Otero is mad at me because I have not given his radio station an advertising contract, and therefore they are 'in the red'." Otero responded emphatically that he does not sell advertising spaces for the station. The journalist added that in 2008 the Council offered an official advertising contract to the station indicating that, to accept the offer, they had to send a letter agreeing to it, but the station simply sent a list of their advertising prices to the council.

On 12 February, in statements to local radio and TV stations, Di Sisto repeated his threat to Otero and extended it to all journalists saying: "I will rip off not only Otero's head, but that of any other journalist who picks on my children."

Otero reported the incident to the First San Luis Police Station. He also sent a letter to the provincial governor, Alberto Rodríguez Saá, the ministries of Government and Security and to the Programme for Provincial Constitutional Rights and Guarantees (Programa de Derechos y Garantías Constitucionales de la Provincia), where he related the sequence of events and asked that San Luis journalists be able to work "with freedom and tranquility and that government officials use legal and institutional means when they feel they have been affected by the dissemination of information or opinion pieces".

FOPEA supports Otero and urges the province's political authorities and the judiciary to do something about Otero's report of this incident and to punish Di Sisto, whose responsibility is that much greater given that he is the president of the local Council.

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