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Local leader threatens radio journalist at gunpoint in northeastern Argentina

(FOPEA/IFEX) - 15 August 2012 – Journalist and director of FM UNO Hernán García was assaulted and threatened at gunpoint by Abel Fontenla, the head of the community of Sancti Spiritu, located near the city of Rosario in the south of Santa Fe province. The incident took place on 14 August 2012 around 7:35 p.m., after García had agreed to meet with Fontenla on the outskirts of the town.

García told FOPEA that when he arrived for the meeting Fontenla immediately rushed over to his car, opened the door and put a gun to his head, threatening to kill him while punching him in the face. The journalist was able to escape but his jacket was ripped by Fontenla in the process. He ran four kilometres to the city and got help from the police, who drove him back to the scene to retrieve his car. When he returned to his vehicle, García was able to retrieve a recording he had made of the assault, which can be heard online (in Spanish).

García immediately reported what had happened to the Melincué regional command which has jurisdiction over Sancti Spiritu. Police officers then gathered evidence on 15 August. The journalist said that in the daylight the tracks of the two cars were clear, and those from Fontenla's vehicle went in the direction of Sancti Spiritu.

García said that soon after the attack Fontenla had called the deputy head of the Sancti Spiritu police station No. 10 to tell him that a journalist would be reporting a violent incident involving him, but that the police should not believe the journalist's story.

This attack is believed to be a response to continued requests for transparency in Fontenla's administration that García has made on his radio programme "Mañanas informales". The local leader had recently gone to the radio station to harass García, as well as insulting and shoving the journalist's wife, who is a co-host on the radio show.

FOPEA was not able to speak with Fontenla, who never returned the organisation's calls. The journalist filed a report with the Rufino court on 15 August.

FOPEA condemns the behavior of Abel Fontenla and calls for him to be sanctioned for his actions, which the organisation considers to be a serious attack on freedom of expression. FOPEA also calls on the provincial and local authorities to offer protection to Hernán García, his family and coworkers, and to quickly resolve this case.