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Radio journalist brutally attacked by local politician in Argentina

The Foro de Periodismo Argentino (FOPEA) condems the physical attack and verbal threats suffered by Daniel Ortigoza, journalist and owner of FM Imperio in Puerto Esperanza, Misiones province. On the morning of 13 September 2013 Ortigoza was assaulted and threatened by the local mayor Alfredo Gruber and a group of protesters.

Ortigoza told FOPEA that he was telling the family members of the victim in a murder case about how the trial was going, when Gruber's wife, Alicia Correa, threatened and insulted him. The murder trial of Lieni Piñeyro and Hernán Céspedes is said to have political implications. A few minutes later Correa returned with the mayor and a group of protesters who also began threatening and insulting Ortigoza. The journalist tried to remove himself from the area, but was not able to before the mayor hit him several times on the head and demonstrators kicked him to the ground. Ortigoza received five stitches over one of his eyebrows, his glasses were broken and his camera was stolen.

The journalist told FOPEA that provincial police present at the scene did not intervene and that the police superintendant ignored his calls for help.

Later, the mayor's brother, Gilberto Gruber, who is a provincial member of parliament for the Frente Renovador, passed by with his son, Fabián, and from his car he pointed a gun at Ortigoza. After this incident, legal officials who witnessed the threat called on the police to escort Ortigoza home. The journalist said he had reported all the threats to officials in the provincial capital of Eldorado, because he has no faith in the local Puerto Esperanza police.

Ortigoza said that when he started covering the Piñeyro and Céspedes case he lost municipal advertising contracts and he and his colleagues received threats relating to their coverage of the case.

He mentioned as an example, threats against Carlos Cabral, a teacher who hosts a radio programme with Celso Acosta on Saturdays at another local station. In May, Cabral received an anonymous threat of three 9mm bullets and a note that made reference to the homicide of the mayor of the neighbouring town of San Vicente. Days later, Fabián Gruber threatened Cabral with a firearm. Celso Acosta also received threats related to coverage of the trial.

FOPEA tried to contact Alfredo Gruber, but calls made to the mayor were not returned.

FOPEA supports Ortigoza and alerts provincial and national authorities to this string of recent threats and attacks and calls on them to investigate the incidents immediately, especially considering the alleged involvement of politicians Alfredo and Gilberto Gruber. The organisation also calls for the authorities to protect Ortigoza and his colleagues.

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