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Journalist threatened after investigating drug trafficking

(IPI/IFEX) - VIENNA, Apr. 5, 2012 – The International Press Institute (IPI) expressed today its concern about the threats against journalist Hernan Lascano, which began in 2010 and appear to be increasing in intensity, to the point of involving his family in the last written threat, sent on March 26.

Lascano, who works as head of the Crime department of the newspaper La Capital, told the Press Union of Rosario that he received the first threats through his Facebook and email accounts between June and October 2010. The messages inquired about his work as a journalist, specifically about the treatment given to information about court proceedings against Mario Roberto Segovia, recently convicted of drug trafficking.

On March 26, a neighbor of the reporter found a note that had been slipped under her door and included a threat to Lascano: "Be warned: there is a before and an after to covering this issue, you are being judged too, and you will know what it is to lose." According to local press reports, the anonymous letter informing that they had followed Lascano, described his vehicle and mentioned his 13-month-old daugther. About the girl, the message said they hoped she didn't become a journalist "if she manages to become a grown up."

The journalist told the Union of Journalists of Rosario that in 2010 he declined to make a legal complaint. However, he recently went to the authorities because his privacy "has been monitored and violated." Directors of La Capital filed a complaint on Tuesday in the courts of Rosario, the third biggest city in Argentina after Buenos Aires and Córdoba.

Lascano said that the newspaper La Capital -considered "the dean of the press in Argentina", because it has been printed since 1867- will continue to cover the three trials against Segovia scheduled for this year.

The regional union of journalists requested that "the judicial investigation restore the tranquility of the threatened journalist and his family," adding that the aim of the messages is to intimidate and silence the professional press. The governor of Rosario, Antonio Bonfatti, met on Tuesday with Lascano and offered to provide him with means of protection.

Lascano is the fifth Argentinean journalist who has been threatened so far this year, according to the register kept by the IPI. Overall, the IPI has recorded 14 attacks against journalists in Argentina in 2012.

"Drug trafficking is one of the greatest enemies of journalism in Latin America and, to some extent, it made the area become in 2011 the world's most dangerous region for media workers. We call on national authorities to ensure the safety of Hernan Lascano and his family, so although organized crime attempts to silence him, the truth can prevail," said IPI Acting Deputy Director Anthony Mills.

The IPI knows that impunity in cases of attacks against journalists is a constant in Latin America. However, it calls again on national and regional authorities to investigate and take action against those who threaten and attack press workers in Argentina.

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