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Official files two libel suits against newspaper

IAPA deplores action against newspaper

(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami (August 5, 2009) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today deplored the fact that libel suits have been filed by a senior official of the Argentine intelligence service against the Buenos Aires newspaper La Nación over editorials on wrongdoing in the official investigation into a 1994 bloody attack on the South American country's Jewish community.

Intelligence Department (SI) Operations Director General Antonio Stiuso filed two libel suits naming Bartolomé Mitre, the editor, and Julio Saguier, chairman of the newspaper company's Board of Directors, claiming to have been offended by editorials published in 2007 and 2008 on the investigation into an assault on the headquarters of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) on July 18, 1994 that left 85 dead and hundreds injured. One of the editorials declared that "this (case) is contaminated by intelligence operations that have always sought to distract attention from the correct investigation." To date there have been no arrests in the case.

IAPA President Enrique Santos Calderón declared, "While any citizen who feels offended has the right to resort to the courts, in this case in particular it is a matter of a man from the government linked to the official investigation into an attack that shook Argentine society and for which so far neither those behind it nor those who carried it out have been identified."

Santos Calderón, editor of the Bogotá, Colombia, newspaper El Tiempo, added, "We consider the opinion voiced against the newspaper's editorials, which were based on the very recognition by the government of the poor official investigation, distracts attention from the bottom of the matter, which should be focused on continuing the inquiries in a transparent manner, achieving results and keeping the public informed on this case."

For his part, the chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Robert Rivard, editor of the San Antonio Express-News, Texas, added, "We are concerned that beyond the fundamental right to appeal to the courts this is an attempt to put a brake on and scare off free opinion, as well as its referring to the performance of his duties by a public official, which is open to criticism and constant examination by the society that he serves."

The IAPA maintains that the public has a right to know and "no news medium nor journalist may be punished for publishing the truth or criticizing or denouncing the government," as enshrined in the IAPA-inspired Declaration of Chapultepec in its 10th principle.

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