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Police officer destroys journalist's camera in Armenia; former city councillor damages camera operator's equipment in Villavicencio

(CESO-IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an 11 November 2008 statement from the Solidarity Centre of the International Federation of Journalists (CESO-IFJ):

On 10 November 2008, an officer from the police's riot squad (Escuadrón Móvil Antidisturbios de la Policía, ESMAD) destroyed journalist Robinson Castañeda's camera. At the time of the incident Castañeda was covering a demonstration by street vendors in the city of Armenia, Quindío department. When Castañeda began filming an ESMAD police officer beating an individual who had stepped in to prevent an assault on one of the protesters, the officer turned on him and struck the journalist's camera lens with his baton.

Castañeda, along with several individuals who had witnessed the assault by the police officer, immediately went to the prosecutor's office (Procuraduría) to file a complaint. However, after an unpleasant encounter with a police assistant at the prosecutor's office, the attempt to file a complaint ended in an exchange of shoving and punching that resulted in the journalist being detained for two and half hours. Castañeda said that during his detention he asked questions about his situation and was subsequently handcuffed to a chair.

Castañeda is part of a group that produces a popular urban affairs programme called "El Ladrillo", which is broadcast weekly by Canal UNE-EPM.

In a separate incident on 4 November, former city councilor Pedro José Ospina damaged the visor and lens of camera operator Oscar Chamorro's camera. Chamorro works for the Noticiero CNC news programme and at the time of the incident was filming an attempt by Ospina to evict a widow and her four children from their home (to see the video, go to: http://www.fipcolombia.com/noticiasVer.php ). The incident took place in Villavicencio, the capital of Meta department. According to the widow's neighbours, Ospina had bought the title to the property. The widow alerted the press to the plans to evict her and said that she had lived in the house for 10 years, that it represented the only property her husband had left her and that she had paid $40 million (approx. US$1,700) to the bank for the title to the property.

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