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Journalist brutally assaulted by town councillor

(FLIP/IFEX) - On 28 November 2008, in the northeastern city of Barrancabermeja, Santander province, journalist Rosberg Perilla of "Enlace TV" was assaulted by town councillor Nelson Riaño Galvis.

The journalist told FLIP that he was at the town council offices to interview the town hall president when he felt a blunt object hit him several times in the head from behind. Perilla fell to the floor bleeding, and when he protested, Riaño insulted him. Riaño tried to leave the building but a civil servant shut the doors.

The police arrived shortly after the incident. Perilla was taken to hospital, where he received four stitches.

According to Perilla, the attack came on the heels of a report aired on "Enlace TV" on 27 November in which the program raised questions about an investigation into allegations that Riaño was earning money by illegal means.

Riaño gave FLIP a different version of events in which he and the journalist got into a shoving match after an argument they had in the town hall washroom. "The journalist fell down and hit his head, which is why he was bleeding," Riaño said. He also commented that he was offended because Perilla had issued critical reports about him over the past year that had affected his personal life.

After the incident, local journalists congregated at the town hall to see the councillor and obtain a statement from him. They expressed their dismay that the police did not take Riaño into custody.

Police commander Oner Edison Trujillo told FLIP that Riaño was not arrested because when the police arrived, the incident had already occurred and as such they could not ascertain exactly what had happened. He confirmed that he had recommended that the councillor leave the premises, but the councillor refused because he "was afraid that the journalists would assault him."

FLIP expresses its concern over these new attacks on freedom of expression and the safety of a journalist. The organisation urges the Federal Attorney General's Office (Fiscalía General de la Nación) and the Attorney General (Procuraduría General) to investigate the councillor's behaviour.

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