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Montería construction contractor assaults cameraman, steals footage, punches programme manager

(CESO-IFJ/IFEX) - When journalist and cameraman Milton Carmona Morelo, who works for Nortevisión television station's "Zona Franca" programme, was filming the Olympic Village (Villa Olímpica) in Montería, the capital of Córdoba department, for a story on the maintenance contracts and materials, he was assaulted and insulted by the engineer hired for the project, former mayor Amaury Sánchez Mejía. The incident occurred on 14 December 2007 at 5:30 p.m. (local time.)

The engineer, accompanied by three of his employees - whom he ordered to "get him out of here!" - threw himself on top of Carmona Morelo; after immobilizing the journalist, they beat him. While stealing the footage, the engineer damaged the journalist's camera.

Nortevisión director Raúl Parra and "Zona Franca" manager Pompilio Silva Sánchez arrived at the scene to intervene on the journalist's behalf just as a police patrol also arrived. When the journalists complained about the video cassette and demanded it be returned, the engineer threatened Parra, whispering: "when I get you alone, I'm going to shove the cassette up your ass."

The following day the engineer perpetrated another act of aggression. In the wake of the authorities' indifference, the television crew returned to the Olympic Village to continue their coverage, focusing on the material that was being used for the sports courts. As they were leaving the site, the engineer blocked their exit with a pick-up truck. Despite this, the journalists demanded the cassette the engineer had stolen the day before. The engineer said that he would turn it over to them at his residence. They followed him to his residence, and when they parked, he went over to the window of the television crew's vehicle and punched Silva Sánchez in the face.

"This is an unusually brazen attack on a journalist and a flagrant violation of Montería citizens' right to be informed. The attitude of the police, who did not bother taking into custody a dangerous individual, is odd," said Eduardo Márquez, executive director of CESO-IFJ and also the president of the Colombian Federation of Journalists (Federación Colombiana de Periodistas, FECOLPER).

"Our concern is intensified by the frequency with which individuals attack journalists in Montería to prevent the public from finding out about their abuses of public property. We have received several complaints about the aggressive manner in which a private security guard for the Academía Sandra prevented videotaping and how on two other occasions, private security guards chased after Carmona Morelo and tried to steal his equipment while the Carrefour supermarket headquarters was under construction," commented Márquez. "We will be noting with interest the authorities' response to this flurry of acts of aggression," he concluded.

FECOLPER represents over 1000 journalists in 18 departments in Colombia. IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries.

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