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Argentinian journalist and wife brutally attacked in presumed retaliation for drug trafficking reporting

This statement was originally published on cpj.org on 15 December 2015.

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the attack Friday on the home of Argentine radio journalist Sergio Hurtado, who reported on drug trafficking. The journalist's wife was raped in the attack in the town of San Antonio de Areco.

The assailants ordered Hurtado, owner and director of Luna FM, to stop talking about the local drug trade, the reporter told CPJ in a phone interview.

"The Argentine government must prosecute those responsible for this heinous crime to the full extent of the law," said Carlos Lauría, CPJ's senior program coordinator for the Americas. "We call on authorities to ensure the safety of Hurtado and his family and to guarantee that the journalist can continue his work without fear of retribution."

According to Hurtado and local news reports, two men armed with knives and one handgun stormed into Hurtado's house around 4:30 a.m. and demanded money. They ordered Hurtado to hand over 27,000 pesos (US$2,520), although it was not clear why they believed he had this sum at home, FM Luna said.

Then the two men each raped Cristina Hurtado, according to news reports confirmed by Sergio Hurtado to CPJ. The reporter's wife told the daily La Nación that the couple's two children were asleep in a nearby bedroom when the assailants entered the house. The oldest son, who is 15, woke up to screams and saw his parents being threatened with weapons, La Nación said. He returned to his bedroom and pretended to be asleep. Before fleeing, the men stole money, cell phones, and other electronics, reports said.

Hurtado said that the assailants issued him a warning: "Stop talking about drugs on the radio. We had orders to kill you." Hurtado's wife also said that the intruders claimed that they were hitmen and that her husband must stop talking about drug trafficking, La Nación reported.

The same day, police arrested two suspects in the assault, identified as Miguel Ángel Paraná, 18, and Santiago Leiva, 21, news reports said. Cristina Hurtado identified the men as local residents known for selling drugs, Sergio Hurtado told CPJ.

The younger of the suspects had been released from jail only seven hours before the attack, having been arrested for stealing a motorcycle this month, according to reports. Police recovered most of the Hurtado family's belongings in the homes of the suspects. CPJ could not immediately reach police for comment.

Hurtado has regularly reported on drug use and trafficking in San Antonio de Areco, located 71 miles northwest of Buenos Aires, but he told CPJ that he could not point out a particular story that may have angered these assailants. The local press group Foro de Periodismo Argentino (FOPEA) said Hurtado had denounced the increase in drug consumption among youth and the complicity of local officials and police with local gangs.

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