(FOPEA/IFEX) – The Argentine Journalists Forum (FOPEA) reports that journalist Mariano Martinez was attacked and injured in the town of Los Antiguos, Santa Cruz province. FOPEA demands that the authorities protect freedom of expression, guarantee the safety of media workers and punish the people responsible for the attack.
Martinez reported that people with connections to Mayor Guillermo Mercado attacked him outside a pub in the early-morning hours of 22 January 2012. The attack left Martinez unconscious for six hours and he was hospitalized as a result.
Martinez told FOPEA that activists associated with the Santa Cruz branch of the ruling party Frente para la Victoria attacked him from behind, then punched him in the head and kicked his body, which left him unconscious. Martinez filed a police report following his treatment at a local hospital.
Martinez works for the program "Radio Merengue" which is broadcast daily on Radio FM Popular. His colleague Victor Pennisi told FOPEA that several days earlier the radio station had received threatening phone calls. Although the program is not critical of the municipal government, in recent days it aired opinions that could have angered people associated with the ruling party.
Around 5 a.m. on 22 January, while Martinez and a friend were at a local hangout called Lomas Pub, they were approached by political activists who told him they did not like the opinions that he had voiced on the radio and "if you don't like the government of Los Antiguos then go back to Buenos Aires". Martinez immediately left the pub and upon exiting, was assaulted by people with links to the mayor. About 30 metres past the pub, while he was walking alone, he was attacked by five or six people who punched and kicked him. A local man called an ambulance for Martinez and he was transferred to hospital for tests and released shortly after.
The municipal government released a statement distancing itself from the incident.
(Please note this is an abridged translation.)