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Mayor harasses radio station employees, assaults journalist following report on new traffic regulation

(AMARC/IFEX) - According to "El Universal" newspaper, Galo Torres Serra, mayor of El Carmen de Bolívar, publicly insulted members of the Carmen Estéreo community radio station and assaulted the newspaper's local correspondent, Lila Leyva.

The incident occurred on 29 July 2008 while the journalist was on the air reading the text of a new traffic regulation limiting the movement of motorcycles carrying passengers on the streets of El Carmen de Bolívar, between the hours of 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. (local time).

According to a Carmen Estéreo employee quoted by "El Universal", the mayor arrived at the station at that moment "visibly upset", demanding that a retraction be issued and insisting that he had not signed the bill into law.

"He began to insult the station's management and journalists because we refused to let him enter. He showed up accompanied by more than 60 motorcycle taxi drivers and tried to force his way in. Then he started hurling insults and swearing at Lila Leyva and he grabbed her by the breast," said the station employee.

The next day, representatives of the radio station filed a complaint against the mayor with the Public Prosecutor's Office, at the same time informing the Foundation for Press Freedom (Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa, FLIP) and the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) about the incident.

According to Leyva, who was quoted in "El Universal, "[in El Carmen de Bolívar], a municipality plagued by violence, those of us who work for the press feel like we are gagged because we cannot report on the mayor's actions without fear of reprisals. I support the radio station in its request for police protection, because we do not know of what Galo Torres is capable."

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