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Mayor verbally assaults journalists

(FLIP/IFEX) - On 10 October 2008, the mayor of Sabanalarga (Atlántico), Carlos Roca Roa, verbally assaulted journalist Evelin Coba Vides, editor of the "La Libertad" daily, in Barranquilla. Roca was protesting against the publication on the same day of an article about a penalty imposed on his municipality for failing to submit a report to the National Planning Department (Departamento Nacional de Planeación, DNP) on the distribution of bonuses in 2007.

The incident took place in the daily's editing room. According to witnesses and information published in "La Libertad" on 14 October, Roca stormed into the daily's offices and stated his objections to the article in an angry and threatening tone directed not only at Coba but also at her colleagues. He said that the article was published in bad faith and that his political rivals in Sabanalarga were behind it.

Coba told a FLIP correspondent that the source of the information was the DNP's own website.

Roca was escorted out of the daily's editing room and three days later insisted in writing that "La Libertad" rectify the information, saying that he was not consulted before publication of the article to explain that the required information had indeed been submitted to the DNP on time. On 14 October, in statements made to a regional television station, he admitted that the municipality was on the list of those that had been penalised for failing to submit information and that he intended to clarify the issue with the DNP. He did not, however, give any reasons for his aggressive actions towards Coba and her colleagues. On 17 October, "La Libertad" published the mayor's version of the affair.

FLIP is concerned about Roca's aggressive behaviour against Coba and "La Libertad". The organisation has noted an increase in the number of cases of aggressive and intimidating statements made by politicians and public officials against journalists. FLIP calls on the National Attorney General's Office (Procuraduría General de la Nación) to investigate these incidents and apply appropriate disciplinary measures against those involved.

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