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Television journalists harassed, assaulted by anti-riot police squad members in Medellín

(IFJ/IFEX) - "Noticias Uno" television news programme cameraman Heddy Banoy Patiño, and its reporter, Fernando Cifuentes Higuita - former president of the Association of Journalists of Antioquia (Asociación de Periodistas de Antioquia, APA) - were the victims of two separate acts of aggression by members of the national police force's anti-riot squad (escuadrón antimotines de la Policía, ESMAD). They were mistreated while trying to cover the arrests of demonstrators on 1 and 4 May 2008, respectively, in the city of Medellín, capital of the department of Antioquia in central Colombia.

Eduardo Márquez, who is both the director of the IFJ's Solidarity Centre in Colombia (CESO-FIP) and president of the Colombian Federation of Journalists (Federación Colombiana de Periodistas, FECOLPER), commented, ". . . these kinds of attacks, which are aimed at preventing the recording and broadcasting of images showing arrests and the beating of those detained, are regrettably common throughout the country and must be halted."

He added, "We have agreed to hold a series of meetings between journalists and the National Police commanders to discuss the matter in complete frankness, in order to create a climate of understanding between those of us who keep society informed and those who are in charge of protecting it."

According to an APA press release, while covering the march by trade unionists on May Day, Banoy Patiño was prevented from videotaping the arrest of a person by an ESMAD member who covered the camera lens and shoved the cameraman.

The second act of aggression occurred on 4 May, near the Atanasio Girardot stadium, when disturbances broke out and media outlets were attempting to cover the incident. Cifuentes Higuita was roughed up and insulted by the police. Later, Coronel Alejandro Bustamante, who was in charge of the operations around the stadium, offered his apologies to the journalist for the incident.

FECOLPER represents over 1100 journalists in 19 departments throughout Colombia. IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries.

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