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Argentinian photographer beaten while covering police operation

(FOPEA/IFEX) - 11 November 2012 - Mario Fedorischak, reporter and photographer, was assaulted on 10 November 2012 by police officers while he was covering a police operation.

Fedorischak is a journalist for the station Misiones Cuatro and a photographer for the newspaper Primera Edicion in Posadas, the capital of Misiones province. He was covering the arrival at the No. 13 police station of 10 people accused of robbery. Local and provincial police were part of the operation.

While Fedorischak was working, stationed on top of a gate outside the police station, one officer alerted his colleagues "Fedorischak is filming here". Three men rushed at the journalist and dragged him for about 15 metres inside the station, while various officers beat him. Fedorischak identified Officer Borges and Julio Ramírez as two of his attackers; Ramírez tried to suffocate the journalist. He was also forced to hand over his personal belongings and to strip. This process was interrupted by the station chief who arrived on the scene, resulting in Fedorischak's release.

During the beating the journalist also received death threats: "We're going to kill you, you son of a bitch, for what you write" and he was told revenge would be taken against his family. Fedorischak's camera was broken, personal belongings were seized and wires on his motorcycle were cut.

Pablo García, the director of the Misiones Cuatro TV station, took Fedorischak to get medical help and x-rays.

The Misiones province police chief accused Fedorischak of assault, saying that "for reasons under investigation, there was a struggle in the police station between an officer and a photojournalist, which resulted in the officer suffering injuries to his mouth." García told FOPEA that he was going to accompany Fedorischak while he files a counter accusation with the prosecutor's office. The Misiones Cuatro manager, Armando Simkin, told FOPEA that the journalist had been repeatedly threatened by police officers because of this type of work. "We don't only have to worry about criminals, but also those who should be protecting us while we do our work," he said.

Fedorischak told FOPEA that he has video of other police operations where the same officers who attacked him are harassing citizens and that he would share these with the judiciary and provincial authorities.

FOPEA spoke with the provincial interior minister, Jorge Franco, who did not comment on the case and referred the organisation to the Provincial Chief of Police, Crio. Gral. Jorge Munaretto, who did not respond to calls.

In September, FOPEA reported on two incidents in Misiones where police attacked members of the press.

In light of the latest attack, FOPEA calls on the Misiones government to put an end to abuses by the police and take disciplinary action against the officers involved. Freedom of expression must have safeguards for it be exercised, and the authorities should be its main advocates, not those who trample on this right.

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