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Journalist receives death threats in Orán, Salta

(FOPEA/IFEX) - FOPEA expresses concern over death threats against journalist Samuel Huerga, of the San Ramón, Nueva Orán región, in Salta province, northwestern Argentina. Huerga hosts a programme on Radio NOA and is a local correspondent for "Nuevo Diario" newspaper.

On 23 July 2009, the journalist received three threatening phone calls and five text messages on his mobile phone. The calls were made by a man and all originated from the same telephone number. The number was noted in the complaint Huerga filed with the Second Orán Public Prosecutor's Office, care of prosecutor María Fernanda Jorge Royo.

The caller told Huerga that he was going to be killed and that he would be "visiting Fabián Pereyra". Pereyra was a young Guaraní indigenous person who was beaten to death in September 2006 by individuals working for a prívate security company hired by the San Martín del Tabacal sugar refinery. His body was found in an irrigation canal close to the plant.

According to Huerga, all the messages were signed "Friends of the powerful". The journalist believes the threats are linked to his coverage of a strike by the workers at San Martín del Tabacal, the largest refinery in Salta. The strike began on 2 July and lasted more than 20 days. In 2008, there was a similar conflict at the plant. FOPEA had investigated the threats received by Huerga at that time.

"This is the same thing we went through with the conflict (at Tabacal) last year," Huerga told FOPEA. The journalist added that even though he filed a complaint at the time and provided the police with detailed information, there has been no follow up in the investigation. "We attribute all this to the fact that we have clearly come out in favor of the workers. We tell our listeners that we are not objective. We understand that if the workers are impoverished, the local area will be impoverished," Huerga said.

In his complaint, the journalist said he would hold the sugar refinery and the Salta provincial government responsible should anything happen to him or to his family.

Juan Carlos Amura, director of human resources and institutional relations at the plant, told FOPEA, "Tabacal condemns all threats, and any type of violence against journalists or any of the workers and employees during the conflict." He also stressed the company's utter respect for for freedom of expression and press freedom.

FOPEA urges the authorities to guarantee the safety of journalists in Orán and to shed light on both the recent threats against Huerga and the outstanding 2008 case involving the journalist.

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