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Journalist attacked, threatened with having his house burned down

(FOPEA/IFEX) - 15 June 2012 - FOPEA condemns the serious attack on journalist Marcelo Massimini, producer and host of the Cono Sur Noticias news programme, whic airs on Canal 7 of Cablevisión, broadcast in the Almirante Brown region of Buenos Aires province. On 14 June 2012, Massimini was attacked in his home in Longchamps by an armed man wearing a hood who gagged him, tied him up, cut some tufts of his hair and threatened to set his house on fire.

Massimini believes the attack is related to a TV report he did the week earlier on the unsanitary conditions at a public school in Longchamps and the impact on the students. The journalist reported the incident to the No. 4 police station in Longchamps and later got a visit from the local mayor Darío Giustozzi and messages of support from other local and provincial officials.

The journalist said that around 8:45 a.m. on 14 June, while he was at his home waiting for his cousin and cameraman Javier Grela, the attacker entered the house and pointed a gun at his head. First, he asked for money, but when the reporter turned away from him, the assailant hit him in the back with a belt. He said, "You're a journalist, you'll see how you end up" and "stop screwing around, or we're going to fill your house with shit." According to Massimini, this was not an off-handed remark.

Just after 9 a.m. Massimini's cousin arrived and untied him. One of the chairs in the living room had been knocked over and sprayed with alcohol.

The journalist's television report had showed how the students of public school No. 21 walk through mud and feces on the way to school instead of on paved streets, as is dictated by provincial regulations. A nearby sewage plant ruptured and has not been fixed. "The report showed how the students walk to school through streets flooded with foul smelling contaminated water," said Massimini.

Some of his neighbours said that in the days before the attack they had seen suspicious-looking people snooping around Massimini's house and a Volkswagen Polo driving in the area. The same model of car had been seen outside the Radio FM Ilusiones station on 13 June when four people berated a security guard in the outlet's offices. Claudio Rodríguez, who works at the station, said there have been threats in the past that were presumably connected to some journalistic reports on a local school council member.

This attack should not go unnoticed by the Almirante Brown and Buenos Aires provincial authorities, FOPEA said. The organisation condemned the attack and called for a thorough investigation so that those responsible can be identified.

(Please note this is an abridged translation.)

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